The Drunken Poet is the authentic Irish pub on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD. Siobhan Dooley set up the Drunken Poet in 2006 after arriving in Melbourne and being underwhelmed by the quality of the Irish pubs already situated in the city.
“At the time a lot of Irish pubs weren’t even owned by Irish people and were set up in a very clichéd way with fiddles hanging off the wall and shamrocks,” says Dooley. “I knew a proper Irish pub could be done overseas. I just wanted to show Melbourne a real Irish pub.”
That’s exactly what the pub’s owner has done in the 13 years since the Poet’s inception. Choosing to decorate the Drunken Poet with portraits of Irish, Australian and American poets rather than the aforementioned clichés, Dooley’s pub focuses on the theme of the spoken word. They also serve Guinness, 18 varieties of Irish whiskey and ten different Scotch whiskys.
In terms of events, the Drunken Poet hosts live music six nights a week. The majority of performances share the theme of words and lyrics. Starting on Tuesdays, there’s a tribute show of a local artist performing songs from their favourite artist. Wednesday night is dedicated to Wine, Whiskey, Women, where two female acts perform their own original music for an hour each. Thursday nights alternate between open mic and singer-songwriter performances.
“Friday we have our traditional Irish music and then a band,” Dooley says. “Saturday [afternoon] we have a folk session where it’s more of a fun singalong Irish ballad session. Then on a Saturday night we’ll have blues, maybe soul bands. Sunday four o’clock we have a folk or bluegrass style band, then Sunday evening it can be a band or singer-songwriter, solo or duo.”
Upcoming performers include the Mast Gully Fellers on Friday July 26, Andrea Robertson on Sunday July 28 and New South Welsh folk-rocker, Corey Legge, on Friday August 2.
Dedicated to celebrating the history of the venue and the unique community they’ve fostered, Dooley is busy organising the Drunken Poet’s 13th birthday party. “It’s Sunday September 22,” she says. “It’s a massive day of fun, five bands playing, just great atmosphere.”
All of Dooley’s hard work is paying off. Her venue earned a place in The Irish Times’ 10 best Irish pubs in the world (outside Ireland) list, which she attributes to the Drunken Poet’s absorbing ambience.
“I get a lot of Irish people who just love it because it’s like being at home,” she says. “It’s very subtle, very relaxed. It’s a really chatty pub. Many people come in by themselves but nobody sits by themselves unless they really want to. You can sit and read a book and watch the characters – there’s a lot of characters drinking here.”
Obviously community is important to the Drunken Poet, and they have an important fundraiser this weekend. During their Kraken Folk Session on Saturday July 27, the venue will be raising money for David Glass and his family.
“He’s a little three year old. His dad is from Ireland and [David]’s just undergone his fifth open heart surgery,” Dooley says. The money from the fundraiser goes to the family, who Dooley says are “all down at the Royal Children’s Hospital waiting. So we’re going to have a big raffle.”
To support David Glass and his family head to the Drunken Poet on Saturday July 27 or visit GoFundMe. To experience the Drunken Poet yourself, head to 65 Peel Street, West Melbourne. It’s opposite Queen Vic Market and conveniently located next to the 57 & 58 tram stops. The venue’s full gig guide is available at thedrunkenpoet.com.au.