The George: From refuge to beacon

The George Bar, located on George’s Street, is one of the oldest and most popular gay bars in the city. It was established in 1985, 8 years before the passing of a bill legalising homosexuality .

The George Bar photo  by: Kieva McLoughlin

The George Bar photo by: Kieva McLoughlin

At first, it was seen as an after work bar for the older gay scene in Ireland but over the years it has evolved to appeal to a wider crowd.
Ger Byrne, a regular at The George, thinks that it is a very inclusive place where you can be yourself and not care about what anybody else thinks. “People let you get on with whatever you’re doing and I find that there is none of the usual pressure, stress and drama associated with other nightclubs, gay and straight. No one takes themselves too seriously.”
Before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993, The George was the only established gay bar in Dublin. It was seen almost as a safe haven where the LGBT community could go to meet new people and socialise. When homosexuality was legalised in Ireland a lot of people came out of the closet and the country saw a massive growth in the gay scene and, because of the increasing high demand, The George continuously expanded to what it is today.
The George has grown up with the gay scene in Ireland and now one of the biggest steps in LGBT equality – the marriage equality referendum – is falling at the same time as their 30-year anniversary. As expected, The George is fully supporting a Yes vote for the referendum on 22nd May. They are even selling A2 sized posters of artist Joe Caslin’s newly painted marriage equality mural near the bar with all proceeds going to the equality fund.
Paul McGovern – long-time customer of the George – realises that the gay bar has changed physically over the years due to higher demand as the attitudes to LGBT improves in Ireland but he said: “The George’s mind set hasn’t changed at all. It was the first gay bar to be open and proud about what it was and it didn’t apologise for that. It originally had big glass windows that people passing by could look into but a lot of closeted people didn’t like that so they frosted the windows over.” Prior to The George, gay bars were mainly just in dingy basements off Baggot Street; everything was very secretive and hidden. In reality, The George hasn’t changed but society has, having caught up with the bar’s open attitude.
The George is known for its many drag queens who perform there, including Veda Beaux Reeves, Panti, Shirley Temple Bar and Davina Devine. Panti, one of Ireland’s most well-known drag queens, is a gay rights activist that is one of the foremost supporters of this month’s marriage referendum. Shirley Temple Bar’s bingo night was the centre of the gay community on a Sunday for years and it is still hugely popular.
Ger Byrne acknowledged that The George has done a lot for the gay community in Ireland over the years. He added: “The George is not the chicest bar in Dublin. It has always been a bit rough and ready and it’s by no means glam. It is the people that make it glam. It is the people that go to The George who make the bar what it is.”

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