There’s no notice on the front door of Metzo on Shangan Road in Ballymun saying it’s no longer open. The windows of the former pub are frosted, making it hard to see inside.
Until recently, this was the only pub in Ballymun’s town centre, after The Towers closed in 2014. Now, it’s shut, too.
When it closed, exactly, is unclear.
“Pat, Pat, how long is that pub gone?” said Dinagh Neeson, last Thursday, calling out to a woman browsing fruits and vegetables at the stall opposite her own on the plaza just to the north of the Ballymun Civic Centre, in front of Metzo. “Three months?”
Neeson is mid-way through packing up her wares: tracksuit bottoms, runners, slippers, shorts.
“More,” says Patricia Mulready.
“Yeah. We’ve no pubs in Ballymun,” says Mulready. “No pubs and no shops.”
“Ballymun is gone,” says Neeson.
Both women say the fact that the last pub is now done is symptomatic of the wider malaise in the town, where social life for all age groups has been hollowed out.
“No shops, no pubs, no entertainment for the kids, we’ve to go on the bus to the bingo,” says Neeson. “There’s nowhere to socialise.”
“This is why the young fellas are getting into trouble,” says Neeson. They’ve nothing to do.
A Missing Cog
“There’s a change in drinking habits,” says John O’Donohue. That’s his idea as to why there’s no pub in Ballymun anymore. “There’s more people drinking at home.”
He’s in Muck and Magic’s community garden, finishing weeding a vegetable patch alongside Olive Kearney, scrambling before the rain comes down.
Kearney disagrees. “That closed down because of trouble,” she says. “The guards were outside every night of the week.”
She’s involved with Setanta GAA club, about a 10-minute walk outside of Ballymun town centre, she says.
There’s a pub there so it wouldn’t really bother her that there’s no pub in the town, she says. “I know for other people it’s a concern,” says Kearney.
Still though, she’d like to see a choice when it comes to watering holes in the town.
Head of Ballymun4Business Robert Murphy says that a new pub in the town “would be another cog in the economic development of Ballymun”.
“There’s a huge component of Ballymun missing there, definitely,” he says.
A good-quality pub with food, and a meeting space, is seriously lacking in the town, and is important for both business and social life, he says.
Nicola Keating, who lives locally and works in the Axis centre, just across the square says she agrees with Murphy.
There was a big theatre show on recently in Axis, she says. The actors asked after where they could go for a drink, and maybe a bite to eat.
“We kept them here and we gave them drink here but we couldn’t feed them. Well, I gave them crisp sandwiches,” says Keating. “It’s embarrassing.”
It’s not as if there aren’t vacant spaces. There’s a host of premises in the town not used for anything, says Keating.
But they’re “too expensive”, she says, pointing toward the three vacant units about fifty metres away on Coultry Road.
They’ve never been open since the row was built as part of the regeneration, Keating says.
According to Dublin City Council’s planning database, these units are owned by Ballymun Regeneration Limited.
Dublin City Council didn’t respond to queries sent last Monday week about the cost of rents for the units and future plans for the units.
Getting a New Pub
“It’s one of the top things we need,” says Mary Callaghan, a Social Democrats councillor for Ballymun-Glasnevin.
“There is a very important social element that is missing in Ballymun and that has wider effects on people’s lives,” says Callaghan.
Callaghan says getting Ballymun a proper social pub is one of her top priorities. Should that be down to Dublin City Council to provide?
She is not so sure. “It’s about, first, trying to find the right space. The town centre was supposed to be redeveloped and of course it wasn’t. Then it also needs an investor to actually come and build the pub,” she says.
For Murphy, it should have nothing to do with the council. It’s up to the market to provide it.
“I’m not sure if Dublin City Council and the local councillors getting involved in the establishment of a pub is the right thing to do,” says Murphy.
“You need to let the free market take its chance as well and it needs to be able to stand on its own too feet and be run well,” he said.
A Dublin City Council spokesperson said the council has no specific objective to provide space for a pub in Ballymun.
If “a pub is a viable economic option it will no doubt form part of a development proposal”, they said.