WHELAN’S Whelan’s of Wexford Street is in the unique position of being not only one of the most important live music venues of the last decade, but also one of Ireland’s most famous pubs, favoured for its warm, convivial atmosphere. Whelan’s live venue and bar is located on the bustling Wexford Street strip in Dublin’s city centre. The earliest definite record of a public house on this site dates from 1772 when Christopher Brady operated a licensed premises on what was then still popularly known as Kevin’s Port. The premises changed hands many times throughout history. In 1989 Gary Whelan and Ian Keith made inroads into making Whelan’s the music venue it is today. While renovating, they stripped synthetic tiles, plasters and worktops that were added in the middle of the century in an act of modernisation, and uncovered the original wooden and stone surfaces. The cost of renovation led to large bank loans, which in turn led to large interest repayments and the pair eventually had to pack it in and sell up. Frank Gleeson bought the venue in 1999. Rather than follow the trend at that time in Dublin to develop the site into a tacky “superpub”, Gleeson nurtured the venue’s traditional values, and at the same time invested heavily to improve facilities for both customers and performers. His ethos was to create a platform that would nurture both local Irish talent and, at the same time, cater for international stars. Whelan’s reputation is universal. Tourists from all over the world regularly visit to photograph the venue that has played host to such legends as Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave, Christy Moore, and Peter Buck and Mike Mills from REM. In recent years Whelan’s has hosted concerts for important new stars such as Damien Rice, Artic Monkeys and the Magic Numbers. It is a venue that musicians from all over the world consistently request to perform in and return to. A team of experienced music bookers and promoters programme a schedule of live music seven nights a week, incorporating all genres from rock, indie and electronic to traditional, folk, country and roots music. This diversity attracts music fans from all walks off life – students, media professionals, and veteran music fanatics. The venue’s existing layout includes two levels, a main ground floor surface with an overlooking balcony, with a combined capacity of 400. The current décor features illustrations from the ancient Book of Kells. One interesting feature of the venue is the Stone Man – a life size statue of a lone Dublin drinker propped against the stone bar. A renovation project to expand the capacity of Whelan’s front bar, as well as to install a number of new facilities on the second and third levels of the building begin in April 2007. Included in these new facilities will be an additional smaller-capacity venue and bar, smoking area, and a state of the art dressing room and preparation area.
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