In the late 19th Century there was a revival of interest in those matters spiritual and supernatural. People of the 1880’s and 90’s rediscovered an interest in the forgotten pastime of astrology and this re-emergence of a fascination with astrology and horoscopes might explain the reason that the pub we know today as Bruxelles (more on that name shortly) was originally known as the Zodiac Lounge when it opened its doors for business way back in 1886.
The Zodiac Lounge was part of the famous Mooney’s pub group and was also known as the Grafton Mooney, much as the Parnell Heritage Pub on Parnell Street was known as the Parnell Mooney. The signs of the Zodiac that influenced the pub’s name are still clearly visible in Bruxelles to this day. Just look behind the main bar and you can still see the beautiful tiled mosaics of figures representing each of the star signs, these tiles are almost 130 years old and offer a connection back to the Victorian world of the Zodiac lounge.
But why is it called Bruxelles and why are all those flags hanging from the ceiling? And speaking of that, why are there no stars and stripes hanging there an American friend asks? Well, give me a minute and I’ll tell you. In the early 1970’s the bar came into the ownership of the Egan family who continue to run the pub to this day. The purchase of the pub happened to coincide with Ireland’s entry into the EU (or the EEC as it was then) and in the spirit of European harmony the pub was renamed Bruxelles after the Belgian capital. The flags that hang from the ceiling represent all the member nations of the EU so sorry to any visitors from across the Atlantic but that’s why you don’t see an American, or Canadian or Australian flag there.
While the 70’s brought big changes Bruxelles certainly hasn’t stood still in the intervening decades. The pub, and its famous basement bars became the hangout in Dublin for the emerging Rock scene and was famously frequented by Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy fame. It’s for this reason that when a statue was erected to Philo, that Harry Street, right next to the pub he knew so well seemed the natural location for its location. The connection with the Lynott clan continues to this day. Philomena, Phil’s Ma in case you didn’t already know, continues to drop by the pub from time to time and has played a big part in its latest development.
The basement bars, so long beloved of rockers, metallers and indie kids have been completely refurbished and extended. The Zodiac Lounge and the Flanders Lounge as they’re dubbed in acknowledgment to the venue’s history look fantastic and the Flanders Lounge has been decked out with a huge amount of Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy memorabilia kindly donated by Philomena. Phil has his own eponymous snug down the back of the bar and there is a new beer cellar that stretches right out under the flagstones of Grafton Street. It’s the perfect spot to try a pint of Bruxelles own bespoke lager!
The new basement bars are available for private hire and for live music and DJ nights. They’re also a treasure trove for any connoisseur of good beer or good rock music.
Originally poster to Dublintown.ie July 2015