Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: George Voronov & instagram
The gays like Guinness too, obviously. And if there is one thing the gays have always been known for, it’s for having good taste. So there was always going to be a good gay Guinness somewhere in the city. A Gay-nness if you will.
There are many who think that ‘the gays’ only drink ‘gay water’, better known as a vodka soda. In some sense, they are right. But the queer community is as multifaceted and diverse as any in the world if not more so. This is because we as a community are encouraged to explore and try on things to see what we like rather than just conform to a well-worn beaten path.
Guinness is the most popular drink in Ireland. It’s even the most popular pint in the UK now, and it could not get there without the gays. They have spending power honey. These days nothing could be more Dublin than seeing a queer with a slightly too flamboyant shirt on, noticeable jewellery, maybe cuffed jeans with a Guinness in hand. As Sian Conway herself says, “The G in Guinness stands for Gay.” That is our rallying cry.
Dublin boasts a diverse and— if not thriving, then succeeding against all odds— LGBTQ+ bar scene that continues to subvert expectations. But many of these clubs are not known for the quality of their Guinness. And frankly, that’s fair. These establishments are not in it to compete with the ‘aul schpots’ for the best that a pint of plain has to offer. However, there is one pub that has emerged as the ultimate Gay-nness bar.
The pub that has unofficially become the gay Guinness pub is Nealon’s. It’s welcoming, friendly, and with a history that dates back to 1905; you know it has the good pipes. The Guinness speaks for itself. Amidst the colourful LGBTQ+ bar landscape, Nealon’s is a pub that became gay-friendly while retaining all of its traditional elements. Dublin Pubopedia describes Nealon’s as having “an understated ‘gay’ reputation” and it’s listed as a gay bar online on a few queer travel sites. There are Boards.ie (never forget) posts wondering if it is a gay bay dating back as far back as 2014.
Nealon’s evolution into a unique hybrid of old-man pub and gay bar is perhaps unsurprising given that Capel Street has gone from being a ‘sex district’, which has always been code for somewhat queer to a full-on, out-and-proud, queer district featuring the likes of Panti Bar.
Unsurprisingly, Nealon’s is often forgotten by many when they are considering the queer landscape but it is an if-you-know-you-know spot. Every single Dublin-based result for my ‘Gay Guinness’ search on TikTok featured Nealon’s as the background.
If you weren’t queer and popped in, you wouldn’t be out of place. But if you’re among those active Guinness drinkers on the pride scene, then you’re bound to recognise the regulars. It offers an unspoken sense of camaraderie among us. It’s where I take all of my visiting queers for their first Guinness before a night of debauched shenanigans. In a city brimming with Guinness and Gays, Nealons is the place to find both. Long may it stand apart from the swirl of cocktails and ‘gay water’ as a place of solace for Gay-ness drinkers.
Elsewhere on CHAR: Brunch Has Always Been Queer