This is one of the most important pieces of information you will need when you arrive here. There are few things worse than finding out that the pub you have been enjoying is about to close for the night. I won’t let that happen to you in Ireland!
Most pubs in Ireland open Monday to Saturday at 10:30am and 12:00 on Sunday, last orders from Monday to Thursday are 23:30, Friday to Saturday are 00:30 and Sunday is 23:00. Late licenced pubs can serve till around 1:30 on weekends and nightclubs till around 2:30.
Depending on where you are from, Irish closing times might seem early. Traditionally, pubs were the meeting places in most Irish communities, and they are usually busier earlier in the day. There are however places to go later in the evening, you just must know where to look…
Pub Opening Hours in Ireland
The opening hours for pubs in Ireland are strict compared to many other parts of the world, certainly compared to continental Europe. In order to serve alcohol on their premises, an establishment needs to get a licence to do so. Most of these licences must meet requirements for opening hours. The idea behind these strict regulations is to help get rid of any “anti-social behaviour” that might arise with longer opening hours. This means that most pubs in Ireland cannot legally open before 10.30am Monday to Saturday and noon on Sundays. If they have these licences, they will not be allowed to serve past 23.30 Monday to Thursday, 00.30 Friday and Saturday and 23.00 on Sundays.
These laws prevent establishments from serving alcohol past those times, but they don’t prevent them from staying open. What you will generally find is that at the times mentioned above, the bartender will flash the lights on and off, letting people know that it is nearing time to close. You can then make your way to the bar, order another round of drinks and finish up before leaving. Once the establishment stops serving, the laws are relaxed. So, you will generally be able to finish your drink in your own time.
There are exceptions to this rule however, some establishments will be able to open either earlier or later than the times mentioned above. There are a limited number of “early houses” dotted around the country, in Dublin there are about 12. Most of these opened around the 1930-40’s and were created to serve dock workers who would finish their shifts early in the morning. Some of them are still in operation.
If you want to drink after the closing times mentioned above, there are also establishments that have “late-licences”, these can stay open for a couple of hours longer. Most nightclubs in Ireland have these licences, though you can find some more traditional pubs with them too. If you want to find somewhere that is open after those times, you still have choices when in Ireland.
Where is open later
Some establishments have found ways to skirt the rules around opening hours. If they are part of a hotel, they are legally allowed to stay open even longer than places with the more traditional late-licence. You can find places like this open well into the early hours of the morning and it is common to find them busy until 4am or later during certain days in the week. A typical night out in a bigger city like Dublin would finish in a nightclub like this and some of these places have become national institutions and are generally very popular.
There is also the tradition of the elusive “lock-in”. This is when the pub locks its doors to the public yet continues to serve the people who are inside, though they are now “locked in” the pub. This practice really skirts the law and is frowned upon by the establishment in Ireland. They are becoming less frequent in recent years and some people might go their whole drinking lives without ever seeing one. But if you are fortunate enough to experience one, just go with it and trying to blend in would be the best advice. The bartender will typically make the place look closed to the outside world, but keep the drinks, and the craic, flowing inside.
Examples of pub types in Dublin
Its good to give examples of these differing styles of pub for you to enjoy while you are here. Here is an example of each of these types of pub for you to enjoy when you visit Dublin.
- Early House – Slattery’s. This is one of the most beloved pubs in Dublin and is the only early house that offers breakfast. Many of the world’s best musicians have performed here including many Irish legends like U2 and Christy Moore, but also the likes of Bob Dylan have played here.
- Regular Pub Hours – O’Neill’s. My personal favourite pub in Dublin, I always tell visitors to try this place out. This pub has been owned by the same family since it opened in 1920 and it has some of the best traditional Irish pub food to be found in the city. Around 9pm every evening local musicians play upstairs, and they are usually joined by some professional Irish dancers every night of the week.
- Late Licence – Doyle’s. This is a particularly popular spot among students in Dublin. Doyle’s has a dancefloor upstairs and will be full of people well into the night. This is one of the best places to find good conversation amongst young people in the city.
- Even Later – Copper Face Jack’s. In the summer of 2018 there was a musical in a major Dublin theatre about this nightclub. “Coppers” as it is known to Irish people is the most popular nightclub in Ireland and you will find revellers there well into the morning hours.
As a rule, in Ireland when there is a public holiday the opening hours work like a regular Sunday. This means that establishments will close earlier than they would on a regular week day. On public holidays, people will usually be given the day off either work or school. This means that offices in Ireland will probably be full the next day. If you are visiting Ireland on one of these days in the year, do what the locals do; go out the night before.
The most notable example of this phenomenon is St. Patrick’s Day (NEVER CALL IT “ST. PATTY’S DAY”!!!). Traditionally the Irish never really celebrated this day on the calendar, even though it is the national day of Ireland. In fact, this day was considered a day of fasting in the formerly conservative, catholic country. Up until 1978 it was illegal to buy or sell alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland! Though this law and the national attitudes have changed, the American version of the holiday hasn’t full made its way across the Atlantic and Irish people generally do their celebrating the night before.
Another interesting note is that up until 2017, it was also illegal to buy or sell alcohol on Good Friday. This law was changed and today the only day of the year when you will be unable to purchase alcohol will be Christmas Day. Plan accordingly.
What days are pubs closed in Ireland? The only day of the year when pubs must legally shut their doors is Christmas Day. Though many establishments will limit their opening hours on public holidays or the days around them.
What is the legal drinking age in Ireland? The legal drinking age in Ireland is 18. If you are under the age of 25, you might be asked to present a photo ID as proof of age in order to purchase alcohol. Any form of state-issued ID, such as a passport or driver’s licence is enough.
Is it legal to drink alcohol on the street in Ireland? There are no laws against drinking from an open container of alcohol in public in Ireland. However, you are not allowed to consume alcohol within 100 meters of where it was purchased or behave drunk while doing so, under penalty of a €500 fine.