A million-euro restaurant at Dublin's Merchant's Arch pub has the green light

The Circuit Civil Court granted owner Tom Doone a ‘declaratory order’ for the build.

By Ray Managh

THE OWNER OF a pub that overlooks Dublin’s 200-year-old Ha’penny Bridge has been told by a judge that he can extend the licensed premises back into Temple Bar.

Kilkenny native Tom Doone, owner of the Merchant’s Arch Bar and Restaurant on Wellington Quay, said in the Circuit Civil Court that he turns away dozens of tourists every day due to a lack of space.

Circuit Court president Justice Raymond Groarke granted him a declaratory order for a €1 million restaurant extension to the former Tailor’s Guild Hall.

The decision ensures Doone will be granted a drinks license for the development if it’s completed in accordance with planning permissions.

Constance Cassidy, counsel for Merchant’s Arch Restaurant Company Ltd, said the current proposal was to extend the permitted licensed premises at ground and first floor levels to accommodate an extra 90 diners.

Cassidy, who appeared with Fiona Tonge of Lorraine Compton Solicitors, said Doone had bought the once almost-derelict premises from a bank in 2006 and spent €1.3 million on a major refurbishment of the building.

Major heritage asset

Architect Frank Kenny of Kenny Kane Associates told the court the premises, built over brick vaults, was originally constructed for the ‘Guild of Merchant Tailors’, which was inaugurated in 1418 and disbanded in 1841.

In a detailed report for the court, Kenny stated that in 1873 the building became a Protestant boys’ school and was later turned into a shirt factory until its closure in 1993. It had lain vacant until it was turned into a licensed pub and restaurant by Doone.

He said the protected structure contained a stone cantilevered helical – or ‘corkscrew’ – staircase that remained a major feature of the building. For months, the staircase had survived the imposition of tonnes of concrete slabs to test its structural integrity.

Judge Groarke, who granted the company a declaratory order, heard that the building was a major heritage asset on the Dublin tourism trail.

It spanned the famous Merchant’s Arch which maintained an important pedestrian link between Dame Street via Temple Bar and Henry Street on the north side of the River Liffey via the Ha’penny Bridge.

Doone, who this week celebrated the 10th anniversary of opening the premises, told Judge Groarke the building catered for daytime and evening tour groups with an emphasis on food.

He said the added restaurant space would provide the capacity and flexibility to host larger groups that were currently being turned away due to lack of capacity. It’s expected work on the extension will begin in the new year.

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