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Irish bars attract the Swiss for St Patrick's Day

The Swiss are partial to the occasional pint of Guinness, especially on St Patrick's Day

(Keystone Archive)

Irish-themed bars have been doing a roaring trade across Europe for the past five years. Switzerland has more than half-a-dozen Irish pubs, and they certainly expect to pull the customers today - St Patrick's Day, March 17.

Jerry Boyce, owner of The Noble Dubliner in Zurich, tells swissinfo what makes Irish pubs special.

"I think the best thing is the quality of beer and the high standard of service. Most important is the friendliness of the staff and customers and the warm atmosphere."

These qualities are hardly exclusive to Irish pubs, though. Donal O'Neill, owner of two Irish pubs in Geneva - Mulligans and Charly O'Neills - says: "It's the feeling of hospitality when one enters, the combination of efficient yet informal good service."

Geneva has four Irish pubs, reflecting the large ex-patriot population, which works in the city's international organisations.

Zurich, Switzerland's largest city, has two Irish bars, one being Boyce's Noble Dubliner and the other the James Joyce Pub, which celebrates the city's connection with the famous Irish writer who made Zurich his home.

Formerly known as Jury's Antique Bar of Dublin, immortalised by Joyce in "Ulysses", the building housing the pub was torn down in the 1970s, and the interior was bought by a Swiss bank and moved to Zurich.

So who patronises these pubs? Switzerland's expatriate Irish community is tiny, numbering just 1,345, which is hardly enough to fill each of the Irish drinking establishments that cover the country.

According to Donal O'Neill in Geneva, around 80 per cent of his customers are foreign, reflecting the international nature of the city. Jerry Boyce in Zurich says that native Swiss make up about half of his clientele.

"I think the Swiss like to meet the international crowd - they can practise English and the English speakers can practise their Swiss-German," said Boyce.

The popularity of Irish bars appears to declining elsewhere in Europe. But Donal O'Neill believes there will "always be a place for a good pub" in Switzerland.

"The idea has been oversold in England and Germany and I'm sure these pubs will be converted into some other kind of themed venue," he adds.

Jerry Boyce, who has run Zurich's Noble Dubliner for the past four-and-a-half years also believes his pub is here to stay.

"A lot of Irish pubs were opened with the idea of making money - but the ones which have survived keep to the high standards that make Irish bars so special," says Boyce.

by Tom O'Brien


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