Photo by Conal Thomas

Scaffolding up, Scaffolding down. It’s been the routine for some time now at Chancery Place, opposite the Four Courts.

To the casual observer, it looked as if work on The Legal Eagle pub – vacant since it closed in 2012 – had been underway for some time.

In fact, that scaffolding wasn’t work on The Legal Eagle, says the owner of the site, Brian Montague. It was actually spillover from next door, 3 Chancery Place, which has been undergoing major reconstructive surgery.

Disappointed? Don’t be. They’ve been working on the pub too, says Montague. It’s just a more recent, less visible development.

Moving Forward

In February 2014, the Sunday Times reported that Montague had bought The Legal Eagle. In December 2015, the Irish Times reported that Elaine Murphy, Montague’s business partner, was aiming to reopen it the following May.

Murphy and Montague also own and operate The Winding Stair on Ormond Quay, The Woollen Mills a few doors down, and The Washerwoman in Glasnevin.

That time line has been drawn out a bit, but The Legal Eagle is now getting a face lift, says Montague. Of course, it’s an old building, so the team have run into a few unexpected issues along the way.

“What we discovered when we started stripping back the building was that there were a couple of structural issues we needed to address,” says Montague. “We’re doing extensive works to the roof because there was a bit of dry rot. The building is hundreds of years old.”

“As we’ve been working on the building, we’ve discovered more and more about it. So, for example, we found an old beam in one of the walls that looks like a kind of signage for a previous use of the building, from the 1900s,” he says.

Work began two months ago. The delay in refurbishment and reopening was due to other business ventures, according to Montague. He and Murphy purchased the building in early 2014 and that summer, The Woollen Mills opened.

“The Woollen Mills was a much bigger project than we’d anticipated,” says Montague. “It was an old building and we’d to get planning permission for various things.”

Last year, The Washerwoman restaurant in Glasnevin opened. The Legal Eagle was put on the back burner again.

As work now gets underway, Montague is keen to note that there won’t be any drastic changes to the building.

“We’re not making any structural changes to the building, we’re not losing anything internally,” he says. “The bar will be in the same place. We’ve started by doing an internal refitting, decoration job.”

“There’s no extension going on, there’s no partition,” he says. “There’s one small partition wall coming down but nothing that changes the structure.”

Montague and Murphy had originally intended to open the new spot by Christmas this year, but now it’s looking more like early next year – even if, as expected, work will be finished before then.

“To be ready for Christmas you really need to be open two or three months so as you’re operationally shot,” he said. “We’ll come back after the Christmas mayhem and start to get operationally ready. We expect to be open around February.”

Inside, the old spot will be refitted and redecorated, says Montague. The old sign for The Legal Eagle will be put back once they’re done.

Have you noticed vacant buildings, or apartments, and wondered what’s going on? Let us know and we’ll see what we can find out about them. Send an email to

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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