Why Every Irish Pub Everywhere Looks the Same

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Whether you've just moved to a new city, a new neighborhood, or even a new country, there's a strong possibility that you can rely on one thing to feel familiar: your local Irish pub. It might be gastro, it might be a hole in the wall, but it will certainly feature mahogany-ish wood paneling, retro beer and liquor ads, and practically floor-to-ceiling rows of bottles behind the bar.


If you've ever wondered why this is, NPR and the podcast Planet Money have got you covered. It turns out there's something organic about the typical outside-of-Ireland Irish pub, but not much. It's more likely than not that everything inside your favorite local literally came prepackaged in a shipping container.

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Planet Money has distilled its original 17-minute audio segment into an amusing four-minute video, but the long and the short of it is that in the 1970s, an Irish architecture student decided to do his final project on the Irish pub. It started as a joke, but ultimately, Mel McNally drilled down into the quintessential design of pubs in Ireland, laying out three inviolable rules of layout and six different flavors of pub.


McNally built a business empire on selling prefabricated pubs around the world, as well as ensuring a goodly chunk of that money heads home. Not only must everything inside his pub-in-a-box come from Ireland, but he strongly encourages the pub hire Irish bartenders, at the very least. If you're looking for your next great venture, it may be time to enlist some cheeky design students first.