Six feet under, Irish alchemy is at work at a bar in Frederiksberg
In a dream world, Danish immigrants would set up all the pastry shops and Japanese immigrants all the sushi restaurants. When they don’t, the results are often disastrous.
With immigrants from the Emerald Isle, their speciality has been staring us in the face in Denmark since 1989, the year when the first Irish pub, The Shamrock Inn, opened near Axeltorv in Copenhagen.
Since then, many have followed: not just in Copenhagen where The Dubliner (1994) and The Globe (1998) are the best known examples, but also in many other cities. In fact, most major shopping centres have one … even Copenhagen Airport.
So when we ask you whether you heard the one about the three Irishmen going into business with one another, you can rest assured that it is a cliche, but not one of those lousy jokes based on national stereotypes.
Yup, they bought a pub! Since late September, the Gravens Rand bar on Søndre Fasanvej in Frederiksberg, just around the corner from Copenhagen Zoo and Frederiksberg Have, has had new owners.
Fulfilling his dream
Gravens Rand does not refer to the death of the South African currency, although its name does translate in rather macabre fashion.
Literally, it means the ‘edge of the grave’ … so the same kind of tradition behind the naming of pubs like ‘The World’s End’ and ‘The North Pole’. And it could be fairly described as being six feet under.
For 133 years the establishment has been servicing its locals with hearty Danish drinking culture. Granted, most of them have ended up in the grave, but the pub is still going strong … albeit ‘on the edge’.
Rather than wait until he is pushed there himself, Eamonn O’Connor, 40, knew the time had come for him to fulfil his dream of owning his own pub. It has been his dream since arriving in Copenhagen three years ago.
Together with like-minded friends Pat Sheridan – of course they met in a pub; at the Globe, Eamonn was serving, Pat drinking – and Will Dixon, he had searched far and wide for a suitable place to set up a business until he eventually found the perfect one in Frederiksberg.
Final nail in the coughin’
As soon as the three Irishmen went down the stairs and through the heavy wooden door, they were struck by a vision: not the Joan of Arc kind that led her down a sticky path to being burned at the stake at the age of 19, but still a pretty life-changing one.
Whatever they did at Gravens Rand, and it probably wouldn’t involve beating the British at the Battle of Orléans, they wouldn’t alter the ethos of the place.
“We understand the history of Gravens Rand: its role in Danish bodega culture and the part it plays in local life,” enthuses Eamonn.
“We want to honour that story and allow the bar to speak to us when defining its identity. Gravens Rand is rich in history – there are so many stories melded into the walls. We know we have a special bar on our hands here.”
But there are plans for a lick of paint here and there, along with a smoking ban to ensure they won’t have to paint over the nicotine stains every single year, but no radical changes to ensure returning patrons will find the same bodega they’ve loved coming to for the last 13 decades (Ed: what’s with all the bad omens in this story?).
“We don’t want our staff and visitors to be at risk of inhaling bad and smoky air,” explained Eamonn.
“That’s why from now on cigarettes must be enjoyed outdoors. But isn’t it the occasional breaks between rounds that makes a bar night more varied anyway?”
A cathedral of chatter
A cigarette is a convenient way of avoiding certain songs, as music will play a large role in proceedings, Eamonn reveals – particularly as two of the co-founders have backgrounds as musicians. Curated nights, jam sessions, you name it.
“We will host Acoustic Sessions every Sunday,” he confirms. “The first one to play ‘Wonderwall’ will be thrown out though.”
Eamonn has been working in bars since he was 14 – a lifetime soaked in the wondrous environment of Irish pubs. So even though the bar will remain Danish, you can expect some pretty strong Irish influences seeping into Gravens Rand (a bit like worms … enough!).
“There will be no huge stage in here nor big spotlights – it’s supposed to be very cosy and laid-back,” he promises.
Everyone is welcome to join the sessions, either as singers or as observers. And since they start at three in the afternoon, last night’s hangover is not going to pass as an excuse.
And there will be plenty of other events, including a bi-weekly pub quiz (next one on October 26), and special evenings for locals and students. The bar can also be booked for private events.
“The bar will be a fun place to be. Arrive with friends, chat with strangers and generally just have a good time,” says Eamonn.
“Being Irish means that it’s natural to be talkative, friendly and open with customers. I’m hoping people just drop in for a chat, to share stories and have a bit of a laugh. Our hope for the bar is simple: good conversations, good beer and good times. And, yeah… to be the best bar in the world.”
Danish lessons on tap
“Pat and Will are going to support me in the first weeks”, Eamonn says.
“I haven’t quite mastered the Danish language yet. Although I do know what to say and what to ask when I’m at a bar, I guess it can only go uphill from here.”
Uphill might be a word some of Eamonn’s visitors use over the coming months … in between a few expletives.
Because for Pat and Eamonn’s friends from The Globe, dropping by will invariably involve climbing ‘that hill’ on the way to the zoo.
But that didn’t stop the Danish king from popping in for a few rounds in years gone by.
“Don’t ask me which one it was though, because I don’t know”, Eamonn says laughingly. “But I sometimes wonder which stool he sat on, should the rumours be true.”
Well, he’d get a surprise should he return … from beyond the grave, of course.