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Sunday 28 May 2023 Dublin: 14°C
# pints of pain
Calling time: Smaller bars issue zero-tolerance warning on '12 Pubs of Christmas'
While the phenomenon is obviously great for business, some bar owners say they won’t be allowing groups of ’12 pubs’ drinkers darken their doors.

PUBLICANS IN TOWNS and cities around the country are stepping up security over the next few weekends, as they prepare to deal with the inevitable influx of ’12 Pubs of Christmas’ drinkers.

The phenomenon — whereby groups of friends don novelty festive jumpers and attempt to down a pint in 12 different establishments — has been steadily gaining in popularity in recent years.

Groups like Drinkaware have been critical of the evolving tradition, with the drinks-industry funded organisation saying it “feeds into the cultural problem associated with how some people drink in Ireland”.

Independent Dublin councillor Mannix Flynn described the phenomenon as “obnoxious” and compared it to the ‘Neknomination’ social media craze, which sparked a national debate on alcohol use at the start of the year.

However, it’s also, obviously, great business for pubs.

Several bar managers who spoke to admitted they welcomed ’12 pubs’ groups, saying the drinkers were generally good-humoured and typically spent large amounts.

But some smaller venues are taking a no-nonsense approach to the jumper-wearing crowds — with one owner saying he had a long-standing policy of refusing the groups.

“Our business would be about 40 per cent food, so it wouldn’t be suitable for here,” Michel Doran, proprietor of the Old Stand on Dublin’s Exchequer Street, said.

“We don’t have a doorman, but if a large group approached the bar we would refuse them.

If they asked, we’d explain the situation — it’s a really small intimate pub, so I just don’t believe it’s suitable.

Doran has had the same policy in place for the last two or three years.

“Before then, it wasn’t really an issue.”

Owner of The Swan Bar off Dublin’s Aungier Street, Ronan Lynch, said his pub had had one of its best Christmases in years last year, after word spread he wasn’t catering for ’12 pubs’ crowds.

“What happened when we started letting the crowds in was that the people who would normally be in the pub on a Friday or Saturday night got up and left. They didn’t like the vibe.

“We can’t legally say ‘no, we’re not letting them in — outright’ but realistically we’re just not suited to cater for them.

“We’re not trying to be killjoys here, but there’s limit to the behaviour people behind the bar can take.”


The landmark International Bar, nearby the Old Stand, has a more tolerant approach to drinkers partaking in the phenomenon.

“We take away a few chairs and tables over the period to make room for them,”  a barman at the venue said.

It can get messy though, towards the end of the night. But if anyone’s drunk, we simply won’t serve them.

The International Bar The International Bar

It’s a similar story a few blocks away at Dawson Street’s tiny Dawson Lounge — which has a capacity of just 40 people.

“We have security on the door for the last two weekends coming up to Christmas,” bar manager Derek Duffy said.

That’s purely to control the numbers. If there’s a large group we just won’t let them in.

“If they’re not a big group, it’s okay.”

Given the size of the pub “it’s always fairly busy anyway … The last thing you need is for 20 people to come in, cause murder, and upset everyone else”.

The groups, generally, are aged from their early 20s to mid 30s. Although increasingly, bar workers said, older people are joining in with the craze.

“They tend to be a suburban crowd, they’d be different to the regulars you’d usually have,” one staff-member said.


Councillor Flynn said there was an urgent need for a public health campaign to warn people of the dangers of “flash drinking”.

“It’s such a stupid thing to do — it’s obviously not in the best interests of your health. Not even alcoholics would drink that way — one pint after another after another.

When you’re throwing down drink at that rate you’re prone to a heart attack, you’re prone to blacking out…

Regular pub customers, he said, are also having their nights ruined by the rowdy groups — who typically stay in a venue for less than half an hour before moving on.

“There’s gangs of men going around doing this and they’re like Buzz Lightyear without the batteries.

“It’s pathetic. As a country we’ve kind of moved on from that kind of drinking — so this is the very height of anti-social behaviour.” 

Read: ‘Will it take my brother’s death for people to realise how stupid neknomination is?’

Column: What I’ll miss most about an Irish Christmas

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