The local pub where no one’s a stranger

A person standing behind a bar holding onto beer taps.

In the age of screens and virtual connections, there’s a cosy spot down in West Melbourne where conversation and live music are still the focal point.

The Drunken Poet – which you’ll find filled with local characters and Queen Victoria Market traders – has been recognised in this year’s Lord Mayor’s Commendations for its longstanding and cheerful presence in the local community.

While international travel is still a little tricky, The Drunken Poet – behind a small green shopfront on Peel Street – will transport you to the streets of Ireland for the cost of a pint of Guinness.

‘We are the only Australian establishment to make the 10 Best Irish Pubs in the World (outside Ireland) list,’ said Siobhan Dooley, owner of The Drunken Poet.

‘We’re a local’s pub – cosy, friendly and the Guinness is always flowing.’

The Drunken Poet, or ‘the Poet’ to its loyal enthusiasts, has been a favourite live music venue and meeting place for locals since it opened 15 years ago.

‘We host local and interstate artists six nights a week, including our popular weekly Wine, Whiskey, Women events and traditional Irish music sessions,’ Siobhan said.

The deliberate absence of a TV in the pub encourages conversations and an appreciation of music.

‘In this pub we have pictures of poets, and commissioned artwork, but no screens mounted on the walls. That was my motto from the start. I wanted this to be a place of creativity and connection.’

‘So many of our regulars travel in from other suburbs for the unique vibe we have here.

‘More than ever these days, the local pub needs to be recognised for its important role in the community as a place of social interaction for the elderly, those living alone and those working from home.’

‘We always make an effort to include the person sitting on their own, to engage them with staff and locals and they always come back.’

COVID-19 has been tough on the Poet and its legions, but Siobhan was heartened to receive friendly phone calls from regulars. The team also ran online live gigs, complete with a digital tip jar to support musicians who were doing it tough.

Now that lockdown has lifted, Siobhan and her staff are delighted to welcome back their friends in person for a chat and celebrate their latest achievement.

‘I am truly honoured to be recognised in the Lord Mayor’s Commendations. Over the years I’ve read about the other small operators in this alumni and I am proud to be among such a passionate, determined group.’

‘I hope that Melbourne’s pub scene will continue to evolve with a wide range of pubs offering diverse, unique experiences like ours.’

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