Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Belfry, Stoneybatter

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Belfry (mentioned briefly in Black Marigolds) is one of Stoneybatter's oldest pubs.

It's on a prominent street corner, hard to miss, an old landmark with its red-and-blue paintwork and those four splendid light-globes at the front saying "Shortts General Store".

Yet with its big screens and Sky Sport and pool table, the Belfry is/was in fact a relative newcomer. In the 1980s and early 1990s it used to be known as Daly's.

Those four lights, like ghost signs from a bygone era, are very probably a recent addition too. A photo in the Dublin City Council Photographic Collection shows Daly's Lounge in 1992, sans General Store lights - and with a much plainer facade. So even the glorious globes and those apparent "General Store" connections may be relatively new appendages too...

Above: Daly's Lounge in 1992, and the Belfry a couple of years ago when it was on sale

Anyway, when the banking crisis came along in 2008-09, the Belfry was one of many Dublin pubs to close down as the economy went into freefall.

The building soon became grafitti stained,  its wonderful old blue "Player's Please" sign on the Arbour Hill side was plastered over by posters. But don't panic: I still have a photo of the old sign in all its glory...

Then around two years ago the pub and the flats above it were put up for sale. As pubs go, it's a prime location in Cowtown; and as flats go, town is crying out for them at the moment - so it's sheer madness that they have fallen into disuse.

I'm nosy. So I got the estate agents' brochure, which said the property had been put on the market on the instructions of the receivers.

The brochure went on:
"The accommodation comprises a traditional style ground floor public bar with an adjoining bar area which is in a delapitated (sic) state. Outside there is a yard and keg storage... The first and second floors (which have separate independent access from Arbour Hill) comprise eight residential student type accommodation units with a communal kitchen/dining/ livingroom."
A pub and eight "student type" units, admittedly in dilapidated condition, yet all for an asking price of  €275,000 two years ago.

Then about a year ago a neighbour said the place finally had new owners, though the only significant activity I've noticed was earlier this month, when the Arbour Hill side of the pub got an eye-catching mural. It's for Frankie Gaffney's new crime thriller Dublin Seven.

The mural reads:
"...26 years old the newsreader said the fella was. Shot dead. Then that vile euphemism 'known to Gardai'. Deserved it, in other words."
Nice one. But for some strange reason the face of the hoodie figure was recently blanked out - making it look a little bit more Halloweeny and a bit less Love/Hate.