John Kavanagh—better known by its nickname, “The Gravediggers”—was built into the wall of Glasnevin Cemetery. Established in 1833, the bar started off as a gift from John’s hotelier father-in-law.
In its early years, Kavanagh’s was a funeral-adjacent business, with mourners leaving hearses outside to come in and drink away their pain. When they dispersed, gravediggers filled the pub’s seats. So many grievers showed up drunk to—or were altogether absent from—funerals that the city cemetery committee enacted a bylaw to restrict burials to the mornings. The pub took a hit in the period afterward, which was only made worse when Glasnevin closed the nearby eastern gate into the cemetery in 1878. To attract new customers, John’s son, Joseph, added games, including a shooting range. Subsequent family members added a grocery in 1920, a lounge in the 1980s, and a food menu in the early 2000s.
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