Although the Keystone beneath the lantern on the front of Whelans bears the year 1894 this only signifys the granting of a licence to the then owners Galvin. In fact the pub's history doesn't start there. The earliest definite record of a public house on this site dates from 1772, when Christopher Brady operated a licensed premises on what was then still popularly known as Kevin's Port. In 1821 ownership passed to his son Bernard and in 1834 two licences were operating from the building, Bernards, and that of Jane Gorman whose Grocer, Wine and Spirit Dealer seem's to have furnished the local need for off-sales or "dram drinking" as it was known then. In 1995 Whelans is again equipped to cater for the local off sales needs with the opening in October `94 of a new Off Licence situated at 23 wexford street, just two doors away from the pub entrance. In 1875 the owner was Daniel Tallon who sold the pub to Galvin in 1894 for . This period marks the pinnacle of the streets prosperity and when the pub was sold again in 1897 it fetched the sum of which in todays terms would probably come to something approaching one million pounds.
The new owner of the pub was the Gilligan family who undertook an extensive renovation of the pub. The same family witnessed the decline in fortune of the neighbourhood and sold to Stephen Bourke in 1952 for , only twice the purchase price of sixty years earlier.
Stephen Bourke was a Dublin "character" in the most bizarre sense of the word, often wielding a hurley to drive malcreant customers off the premises and sending his wife out to take in deliveries, whatever the weather.
In 1989 Gary Whelan an expatriate Irish actor returned to his birthplace, Wexford Street from London and , in partnership with Ian Keith, bought the pub from Bourke and renovated it extensively. When renovating, the new owners striped "easy to manage" synthetic tiles, plasters and work tops that were added in the middle of the century in an act of modernisation, and uncovered the original wooden and stone surfaces.the walls of the pub were also covered with synthetic tiles and the bar with Formica. The Bourkes sign from this era ( which appears on the Famous Dublin Pubs poster) has been left intact under the newer Whelans sign. Unfortunately for the partnership, the cost of renovation led to large bank loans which in turn led to large interest repayments and the pair eventually sold to Liam Hanlon two years after the renovation.
One feature of the bar is the Stone man, a life size statue of a lone Dublin drinker propped against the Stone Bar. The statue is made with fired wood chips, a sort of complex paper mache.
The music venue was originally a warehouse and was purchased at the same time as the recent renovation of the front bar. and has been similarly restored and decorated. You can still see the flywheel that was used to raise and lower goods above the upstairs window.The murals in the balcony bar are reproductions of Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
The ground floor of the music venue features murals reproduced from the Book Of Kells. The three main murals, which are hidden by the stage curtain at nighttime, depict three of the four evangelists - Mark as the lion, Luke as the calf and John as the eagle (the calf also appears in the front bar). These panels are taken from the front pages of the gospels and the animals are shown with their usual vague collection of physical characteristics. The Whelans logo itself is one of the many feline monsters which occur throughout the book.