I see the frosted glass door inside Toner’s pub next to the bar where I’m standing. And I’m wondering what’s behind it. I decide to knock. The door opens and I am welcomed into my first snug by handsome Irishmen named Aidan, Trevor, Paul, Ed, and Dillon…there’s a Scotsman named Steven too. Someone closes the door. I’m overwhelmed with attention. I’m treated like a rock star, literally – the guys think I look like Kate Bush. Instantly it’s that feeling of excitement and possibility laced with comfort that the lone traveler is searching for.
With the Irish brogue, it sounds like “snoog” and it’s a private spot separated from but still part of the bigger pub. Snugs were historically perfect for ladies, the local Garda, clandestine lovers, and other patrons who didn’t want to be seen drinking. In fact Toner’s snug is the only place where W. B. Yeats would ever indulge in a drink. And Hamlet’s famous line to Ophelia was originally, “Get thee to a snug!” (Well no, not really, but I think things would no doubt have gone much better for her if he had.)
Everyone in Ireland knows what a snug is, but to me it’s the new and wonderful place that is quintessentially Irish – an intimate place within a place that practically calls out, “Come in, this is where the craic is!” If I were an entrepreneur I would invest in snugs. And I find out later that my first snug is the best snug…in the country. Yes, the Irish have a snug contest. Suzanne Lawlor of Powers Whiskey says, “Snugs are highly regarded for their cosy atmosphere…but seldom celebrated as authentic spaces in many of Ireland’s best pubs. We aimed to do just that – celebrate snugs as unsung heroes…each unique…but all equally placed in the enjoyment of good company and great conversation.”
So if you’re lonely, if you’re in love, if you’re willing to open a new door, get yourself to a snug. And to our American leaders, I want more snugs and I want them now! Whether it’s a small room with a wooden bench in a pub or not, everyone is looking for a snug. A place that offers warmth and comfort while the world outside rages. And I realize that Dublin is my snug – a wee, safe place where I can close the door and be whoever I want to be.