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Dublin: 21 °C Sunday 22 July, 2018
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'Some people think it's trendspotting. It is in its b*****ks': How beloved Dublin boozer MVP came to be

The dog-friendly pub that specialises in cocktails and spuds.

Image: MVP

TREVOR O’SHEA REMEMBERS receiving an email from a PR agency a few years ago with the subject line, “D8 is great”.

The header piqued his interest as he was considering purchasing the bar formerly known as Francis McKenna’s on Upper Clanbrassil Street.

“I emailed the person back and said, ‘Listen, what does that mean? D8 is great? ‘ and she said, ‘Oh, D8 is this this cool place in Dublin.’ And I said, ‘Where is Dublin 8?’”

He wasn’t certain whether or not Francis McKenna’s fell into that area. “I didn’t technically know the postcode and then I saw it was and I went, ‘Aw f**king great. There must be something decent going on in that area.’”

This was in early 2014. Nearly four years later, the pub formerly known as Francis McKenna’s has become MVP, a buzzy boozer that’s part of one of the most vibrant areas of Dublin. After all, Clanbrassil Street is now home to restaurants Bastible, Clanbrassil House and Gaillot et Gray, as well as other bars like The Headline.

Lovely pint of #Guinness

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MVP is run by Bodytonic, the group behind pubs like The Bernard Shaw, The Back Page and The Square Ball. But it only opened its doors in July 2014 after what O’Shea says was a quick turnaround.

“It was a two-week build. We did it for five or ten grand. We turned it around really quickly with a motley crew of people like we always do it.”

The name was inspired by a book O’Shea was reading at the time entitled The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Ries popularised the notion of the ‘minimum viable product,’ a concept that struck a chord with O’Shea.

At its core, it’s about the idea of… don’t labour forever over your product. Get it out there, the minimum viable product you can get out there, and see how people react. Get it up and moving instead of procrastinating for ages.

O’Shea and his colleagues started referring to the new boozer as Minimum Viable Pub, or MVP for short, and what started as an internal joke soon caught on.

“A few people heard the name, liked it and we ended up going with it.”

When it came to how the pub would look, O’Shea had a clear idea of what he wanted.

“I wanted to work with the fact that it was an old pub, but I wanted to tweak it,” he explains.

One morning, he happened to be listening to the radio when he heard one of the founders of Come Here To Me talking about how women in 1930s Dublin formed their own drinking clubs in their apartments so they could enjoy cocktails, which were then frowned upon in Catholic Ireland.

“I had that image in my head and I said, ‘Why don’t we make an old woman’s pub?’ Or a pub that’s based on, you know, what women want but not necessarily in a clichéd way. Women I know like drinking pints. It’s not all frilly flowers. There’s way of doing things without being clichéd.”

“The idea was to imagine what kind of pub those women could have drank in in the modern day.”

#dancedancedance #dublinpubs #thursdaytrad

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Under the stewardship of manager and award-winning bartender Anna Walsh, the pub has become chiefly known for its cocktail offering. If you’re in the market for a gimlet or an old-fashioned, it’s the place to go.

It also has a healthy selection of craft beers and serves baked potatoes with toppings like chilli con carne and jerk chicken.

Aside from its cocktails, the pub is arguably best known for being hospitable to friends of the four-legged variety.

According to O’Shea, it all started when the pub opened and customers kept dropping by with their dogs.

“For some reason a lot of people kept saying, ‘Listen can I bring Rover here with me?’ It got a bit silly the point where I was like, ‘F**k it, let’s write dog-friendly on the chalkboard outside so people stop asking.’”

As he soon learned, a lot of people in the area had dogs. Like, loads. But he insists that the positioning of MVP as a dog-friendly pub was completely organic.

I guess lots of people who are in their late twenties and thirties in that area have dogs. That’s all it was. Some people think some of the stuff we do that there’s some sort of trendspotting going on. It is in its bollocks.

The pub briefly found itself entangled in a spat with the HSE over whether they were allowed to have dogs on the premises given that food was prepared and served there.

Last month, however, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland ruled that domestic animals can be allowed in food premises at the discretion of the owner. (They still remain prohibited from areas in which food is prepared, handled or stored.)

Good news for MVP and its pooch-loving customers, so. Sure didn’t the pub recently host a birthday party for a dog?

Are ye going for a pint?

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All in all, O’Shea says MVP is a quintessential neighbourhood boozer and estimates that the majority of regulars live within a kilometre or so of the pub.

Proof if ever that D8 is indeed great.

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Amy O'Connor

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