The first bar I visited on a regular basis upon being old enough to legally drink was Auntie Annies on the Dublin Road. As a teenager during the Golden Age of Indie in the mid-noughts, this – along with the Belfast Limelight – were the places to see up-and-coming-bands, somewhere to bank that ‘I saw them before they were famous’ claim. A quick browse of Setlist.fm shows a few bands that went on to bigger things (Biffy Clyro, Paolo Nutini, Frightened Rabbit) as well as a ton of bands many people my age would remember from ‘the next big thing’ sections in NME, Q and Hot Press but fell victim to an overcrowded market and a declining fad (hmmmmm, there's an analogy)
|Aunti Annies - only the 'Porterhouse' if yer porter of choice was Guinness|
(Photo via 'Geraldine D at Yelp)
It wasn’t just a place for indie kids though, a large projector screen would show the big football matches and it was a place where I could go with both my ‘music crowd’ and my ‘sport crowd’ and feel equally as comfortable. Service was often a bit of a nightmare and seating was so sparse that it was a write-off at weekends but for a midweek pint, a gig or a Champions League match, there was nowhere better in my view. I began to drift away from it when my friends all started going to university and most moved into digs up around Queens so we ended up gravitating towards bars up there – The Parlour, Ma Nelsons, The Globe, The Students Union – only venturing down the Dublin Road to go to The Limelight or Stiff Kitten for rock and metal nights in those clubs.
|Continuing the false advertising theme - 'The Bar With No Name'|
(Photo via 'Stevie M' on Yelp)
|The short-lived 'Five Points Alehouse' - |
No Five Points and very little ale (Photo via Stevie M on Yelp)
The biggest question of all however: would my social anxiety and acute sense of embarassment allow me to go up to the bar and ask for a f***ing tasting tray of f***ing Smithwicks of all things? In what can only be called the biggest victory against my shyness since the first time I asked someone out for a date, I did just that. And just like then, it couldn't have went worse.
My usual technique for plucking up the courage to interact with people in uncomfortable ways is to imagine the worst case scenario, reasoning that its unlikely to be that bad. And yet the exact scenario played out as if it was a deja-vu.
"A tasting tray? I don't understand? You mean food? Oh, beer? Nope, we don't do things like that at all. It says it outside? Really? That's strange"
If I had a jerry can of petrol and a lighter I would have doused and set myself alight on the spot. Instead, I was reduced to hyperventilating and only just managing to blurt out 'Citra IPA please' (because, as any Norn Irish person knows, manners are absolutely mandatory no matter how bad the situation) before keeling over in acute embarassment, wondering if this is what hell feels like.
|The view from the new snug which I can confirm is a solid|
hiding place for anyone who has an attack of acute embarassment
|Open Gate Citra IPA|
Unfortunately in its current incarnation The Points doesn't really fill any purpose for me. Its not the place I felt comfortable in between the ages of 18-24, instead just another one of a number of Belfast bars which have stripped out their soul in exchange for shininess, fakery and increased prices. The Belfast bar industry clearly disagrees with me however as renowned jeans-n'-brown-shoes joint The Apartment prepares to rebrand itself 'Hell Cat Maggies' - taking its name from a notorious 19th century figure from New York's Five Points district. Taste, as they say, is subjective.
~ Mac Súirtáin