And there was the pub, gone. MacTurcaill’s, at the corner of Townsend Street and Tara Street, has been closed for over a year now.
Once a popular haunt for locals working in the George’s Quay area and students from Trinity College Dublin, it closed in March 2015.
Now, however, it is “OPENING SOON”, according to a sign pasted in the window. But how soon is soon, is a new owner imminent, and, if so, who is it?
On a recent Thursday evening on Townsend Street, commuters were hurrying off home for the day.
The pub’s windows, whited out with paint, display the large white sign that declares the reopening of MacTurcaill’s.
Or, rather, its opening, soon.
The signage of the old spot has been removed. Inside, there are still tables and chairs in place, the odd candle holder and beer taps sitting unused behind the bar.
Those who work around the area have heard little about the cause of closure or the potential reopening. They have plenty of rumours, but no solid facts.
Last March, the website publin.ie published an article about the pub’s closure. Shortly before Paddy’s Day, the doors were locked. John Geraghty of publin.ie says he’s surprised it closed.
“From my recollection they were doing €4 pints, which brought in some of the students around the area when a lot of students weren’t drinking in pubs,” he says. “It was close and cheap and people often moved from Doyle’s [on College Green] to there.”
Geraghty says that trade seemed to be ticking along nicely before the closure. “It wasn’t a pub that seemed like it was heading into dark times or on it’s knees,” says Geraghty. “The staff were all there a few years and seemed settled.”
Geraghty says the “OPENING SOON” sign has been in place for at least six months now. And yet there’s no sign of an imminent reopening.
Having been on the premises in early March last year, Geraghty noticed at the time that Porterhouse beers were stocked and that “Porterhouse North” was typed on the receipt.
The Porterhouse Group, however, says they never owned the premises or operated it prior to its closure. So who did?
The Interim Owner
According to a Sunday Business Post article from February, David L’Estrange, an accountant and pub financier, owns the cellar of the premises.
This part-ownership led to complications with Dublin GAA footballer Bernard Brogan, who sought to acquire the pub’s debts of about €900,000 from Sankaty, an affiliate of Bain Capital Credit investment group.
(Sankaty had acquired the Project Coney loans portfolio from Ulster Bank in May 2015, which consisted of loans relating to 66 pubs, among other businesses in the Republic of Ireland.)
According to the Sunday Business Post article, it was rumored that Sankaty, operating in Dublin through Capita Asset Services, were moving forward with another offer, rather than Brogan’s.
That other offer was said to be from David L’Estrange himself.
A Very Advanced Stage
L’Estrange says he does own half the basement of the premises, a freehold agreement he’s held since 1998.
The basement, he says, contains the toilets, the kitchen and storage facilities, and is key to anyone wanting to purchase the rest of the premises.
Prior to the pub’s closure, L’Estrange says that the premises was operated by Frank O’ Connell, was unprofitable for some time and needed a refurbishment.
After the Brogan deal fell through earlier this year, L’Estrange decided to purchase the debts from Sankaty himself.
“The negotiations are – what do they call it? – at an advanced stage, a very advanced stage,” he says. “I expect the offer to be accepted in the next few days now.”
If L’Estrange acquires the rest of the premises, it will be modeled on the Camden Exchange, he says, the Camden Street pub he owns which specialises in craft beers and cocktails.
“The [MacTurcaill’s] premises has been closed for nearly two years, they’re making no rent off it, the rates are amounting up to €130,000,” he says. “They’re obviously waiting for a rising market I’d say.”
L’Estrange says this will be his final offer, and then he’ll be “walking away from the table”. The figure offered for what was MacTurcaill’s, he says, is above €1.5 million.