Bootlegging With The Beer Baron

By Eoin O’Donnell

A few years back, a young, teetotal musician decided Ireland’s late night booze restrictions were a ball ache that could be exploited with a professional approach.


After starting out as Dial-a-Can, he took over the mantle of ‘Beer Baron’ – after the eponymous Simpsons episode – from another Dublin late-night purveyor gone straight.

His business exists because the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 exists. That act achieved little, apart from inconveniencing drinkers, chief among its many annoyances is that Irish off-licences and retailers can’t sell alcohol after 10 pm.

Now, after nearly five years of bootlegging and with retirement approaching, we decided the Beer Baron needed a good talking to. He obliged, and took us out on the road with him in the wee hours of a pissy Saturday night.

So, as we prepared for a night that would see us crisscrossing Dublin city, one story about the Baron left us with little choice on where to start our conversation.

You were carjacked?

That was a freak incident. I have a system to kind of protect me: if anyone ever calls me and I don’t know their number, I ask them where they got my number from, then I ring that person straight away and ask if the [new customer] is cool.

So, tell us about the carjacking?

It was ridiculous. I was with this girl, so I said I’d give her a lift home and we’d do a delivery, because they were real regulars and I wanted them to have their session. So I went and did the delivery and, when I got out of the car, everyone came out and we were chatting.

Then I saw this car pull up and this guy comes over to us close and shouts: ‘Does anyone want any fucking pills or coke?’

Then I saw this car pull up and this guy comes over to us close and shouts: ‘Does anyone want any fucking pills or coke?’

I was walking towards the front of my car and he just jumped in the front as I got there. So, I grabbed him by the neck and reached down and grabbed the keys and ripped them out. I was reaching back to hit him and the car just went phwssh and flew off. I was like: ‘What the fuck?’

My mechanic friend told me there’s a specific fault with that car and that model and that year; that it still runs even if you pull the key out – and the girl was still in the car!

How did you get it back?

I went looking for her, I obviously couldn’t find her, and then she came stumbling along in the area, and I was like, ‘Where were you?’ and she was all upset. So, I went to find the car because she gave me a description of where it was. I found the car, but my phone was gone and [so was] my mates jacket and bag. That was it.

And there’s no trouble with the Guards?

No, the Guards, I’ve never had any problem, because they’re not aware of me, and even if they are, they couldn’t give a shite. I’ve had a few customers over time who have been Guards. I’d be doing a delivery and they’d say, ‘I’m a Guard,’ and I’d be like, ‘fuck off, no way?’

So we’re heading in to the Crumlin/Kimmage area here. We’ve seen there’s a Crumlin Beer Baron on Facebook. Does there be any type of competition going on?

No. When I started about five years ago there was only one guy in Dublin who was doing it, this guy in Tallaght, and I know him, and I was living there at the time. Tallaght’s got 80 to 100,000 people living there, so he could operate solely in Tallaght and make a mint.

The only other person I ever heard of was this old guy who charged €80 for a crate, out in Dun Laoghaire, but he was in his sixties and never answered his phone.

The only other person I ever heard of was this old guy who charged €80 for a crate, out in Dun Laoghaire, but he was in his sixties and never answered his phone.

There’s been people [who have] come and gone. There was a guy a couple of years ago, started for a while, started handing out business cards and stuff like that. I was like, ‘he’s going to get his head kicked in,’ and that’s what happened to him. He got called down to the East Wall one day and got his head kicked off him and robbed because he didn’t have a vetting system – anyone could call him out.

We pull up at a suburban house in Terenure, on Dublin’s Southside…

These are regular customers. I woke up one day and came downstairs and they were in my house, because my housemate hooked up with one of them, and they were like ‘Beer Baron – what the fuck?’ That’s happened a few times, actually.

So, how lucrative is business?

It really depends on how much you work. At the moment, because I’m nearly stopping this, I’m working just two or three nights a week, Friday and Saturday mainly. I might do a delivery or two on Thursday, if I’m awake, and one or two on Sunday, if I’m awake. I go out a lot, I don’t drink at all, but I like clubs.

How big is your customer base? Do you have to hang around, reading a paper or waiting in lay bys?

Usually I’m just out or at people’s parties, so I just leave and come back, leave and come back. I won’t do it that way, just fucking sitting around, waiting for deliveries.

Is there a day job or is this paying the bills?

It does pay the bills, but I also work.

Heading back in to the city from a delivery in Raheny, on Dublin’s Northside, the Beer Baron is talking about other drink sellers giving him a bad reputation…

This girl, she asked me ‘are you the Beer Baron?’ I was like ‘yeah,’ and she said ‘I called you recently enough and you just didn’t turn up.’ So I said, ‘No you didn’t, ’cause I don’t take a call unless I’m 100 percent going to do it.’

‘No you didn’t, ’cause I don’t take a call unless I’m 100 percent going to do it.’

So, what’s all this paying for?

Well, basically, this started in college because I didn’t want to get a job in Tesco or whatever shit like that – working in Tesco, 25 hours a week, and studying for a degree I fucking hate, just wanting to kill myself – so I just did this.

Then I finished college, and I always wanted to be a musician but just never really had confidence in myself. But then I was like, no, I’m going to give it a few years and focus all my time on it.

At the time, I was only working a few nights a week and doing a couple of hours each night, in reality about 20 hours a week, but I was making as much as someone working 50 hours a week. So that means I could pay for all my equipment, the studio I was renting, and eat sushi every day. It gave me enough time to just be as creative as possible.

How are you going to support yourself when you leave – what’s the plan?

Well, I just spent the last year recording an album, so that’s all finished and paid for. We’re just getting a live show together now.

And will you be back doing this if or when the money runs out?

No, because this was paying the extra costs. As in, paying for the studio, paying for the album, paying for the equipment and saving up for things, but now that I’ve got nothing else to save up for – I’m not going to be paying to make an album – I can live off the money I make from other work.

How far will you drive to deliver to somebody?

I’ll go anywhere in Dublin, it just depends on what I’m doing, how busy I am and how I feel about who it is.

If it was some lad from far out on the Northside and he just wants a warm can of Tennent’s?

Well, there’s a €40 minimum delivery.

The first weekend, I got one or two calls. The second weekend, I got six or seven calls. Then, the next weekend was Good Friday, and I came home with €1,000 or something like that.

Is it just through word of mouth that you’re doing this?

I set up a Facebook page. Got this extra work [phone] number. Sent the Facebook page with the number to all my friends, told them to send it to all their friends, and then I closed it down after a week. So, that meant shit loads of people had my number.

The first weekend, I got one or two calls. The second weekend, I got six or seven calls. Then, the next weekend was Good Friday, and I came home with €1,000 or something like that. After that my number just went everywhere. So, really, from then on, it was just full time.

That was the time of Mephedrone as well, if you remember that, and people did not stop sessioning, so I was like ‘this is great.’

Yeah, so every year, even though I’m stopping soon, I’m going to be doing this on Good Friday.

 

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