At the bar, Paul Gannon sweats over spirits and packets of crisps. Loud music plays in the small space. Tony Green sits sipping on a pint. Gannon’s staff rush from vodka dash to pint-pour and back again.
A few yards from them is where Michael Barr was murdered in April.
Reclaiming the Local
Last Friday, the bar buzzed with activity. It had, after all, been closed for more than two months following the death.
Then a 22-year-old from Summerhill decided it was time The Sunset House reopened and got something of a makeover.
Paul Gannon, whose family operate Ned’s of Townsend Street, roped in family and friends as the Beyonce concert in Croke Park rapidly approached.
They reopened the doors at the end of last week, this time as The Brendan Behan. Gannon says the response has been fairly positive.
“A lot of old men are coming back, talking about how they used to be here nine years ago,” says Gannon. “We always remember it as a great pub. My aunty lived only two doors down there.”
Gannon, whose family are originally from Sean O’Casey Place, used to meet outside the pub to go to football practice on a weekend. It was always known as a great shop, he says, and hopes the locals will frequent it in greater number over the coming weeks.
The next day, at The Brendan Behan, two lads drinks pints of Carlsberg at the bar. There are still feathers from boas lying around after the previous day’s festivities.
The set-up is minimal, as it was when it was still The Sunset House.
But Gannon and his crew have installed a new TV, a new kettle and a platform for karaoke. They’ve revamped the bar and added a few extra chairs to the pub’s alcoves.
Over the course of an hour, six ambulances shoot past the pub, and two kids peer around the doorway. A pit bull finds its way inside, its owner following soon after to order a pint.
The two children, eyes now glued to the telly affixed to the wall, pay no attention. “They’re the bouncers,” says one local, who swiftly returns to his jar.
Two doors, one left, one right, lead into the pub from the street. Half a dozen or so tables are lined below heavy glass windows high above eye level.
To the left, a boarded-up fireplace sits unused under a large TV screen. To the right of the central bar is a raised platform next to a handful of stools leading to the right-hand side entrance.
It’s a quiet one today. And it’s early days for the Brendan Behan. Following Barr’s death in April, it may take some time for the locals to return.
Their First Three Pictures
The following Monday, as the last of the weekend debris is cleared away, Paul and Gary Gannon tinker near the window with different flags. The recently applied varnish has dried and there seem to be more customers around than the day before.
One, Eamon Bergin, has been drinking in the shop for 19 years. Living on nearby Sheriff Street, he reckons the Gannons could make a decent go of the place given some time.
“You have to give them a chance,” he says. “They’re only starting up. A few pictures, brighten it up a bit, and hopefully they’ll get the clientele.”
Bergin says that many of the regulars who would have frequented the pub before the murder have now moved on to other spots around the area. But eventually they’ll take notice, he says, sipping on a pint of Carlsberg.
“It’s like a community centre, a local, in a way,” he says. “The locals what came in here will come back in here again. Give it a couple of weeks.”
New owner Paul Gannon says he intends to keep the pub fairly traditional. In other words, know your audience. Despite his older brother’s attempts, craft beer is unlikely to feature.
With a few local staff members, newly trained, foot-finding’s the first priority. Then, when cash begins to flow in, some alterations may be in order.
But first, three pictures: one of shoes strewn over an electricity wire in Stoneybatter, one of the Dorset Flats in days past, and the last a tweed jacket draped over a railing.
Next, four flags go up outside: the Dublin colours, the tricolour, the Palestinian flag and the pride rainbow.
It’s clear the 22-year-old Paul Gannon wants to make his mark on the previously dimly lit watering hole.
A Resilient Area
The brothers, Paul and Gary, both see the North Inner City as a resilient area.
“The spirit has not taken a beating at all,” says Gary. “Paul rang me on Saturday when the concert was on and we’d no idea what to expect.”
Says Paul: “It’s amazing how everyone worked together around here. We were panicking about change and stuff like that and it was just amazing to see how the street traders, the pubs, the man in the chipper van all worked together.”
On the wall behind the bar, a card from Joe Duffy wishes the lads “best of luck” with their new venture. Gary Gannon says the two argued over the naming of the pub, given Behan’s penchant for the gargle.
He reckons Duffy gave in though, in the end.
As I leave the strangely frowsty shell and walk out past the proud flags, it feels like Gannon and those he is working with have as decent a shot as any of reviving this Summerhill local.
For a start, Guinness is only €4.