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City woos Irish Pub to liven up Old Town

In their effort to enliven the historic Old Town, officials at Bratislava City Hall have successfully recruited a profitable bar man to open an Irish pub in one of the few buildings the City still owns.
When Bronislav Michalčák, Mayor Peter Kresánek's right-hand man, first met Irishman Robbie Norton 10 months ago, he described how the capital city's streets - virtually dead after dark - could use a hopping night-life magnet such as the Norton family's Prague pubs. Within weeks, Norton agreed. Within months, the two had closed a 10-year lease deal, with an option to extend, on 350 square meters in the former premises of a state shoe store on Sedlarská ulica, across from the French and Hungarian embassies.


Robbie Norton is opening The Dubliner in a City-owned building that was in "appalling condition."

In their effort to enliven the historic Old Town, officials at Bratislava City Hall have successfully recruited a profitable bar man to open an Irish pub in one of the few buildings the City still owns.

When Bronislav Michalčák, Mayor Peter Kresánek's right-hand man, first met Irishman Robbie Norton 10 months ago, he described how the capital city's streets - virtually dead after dark - could use a hopping night-life magnet such as the Norton family's Prague pubs. Within weeks, Norton agreed. Within months, the two had closed a 10-year lease deal, with an option to extend, on 350 square meters in the former premises of a state shoe store on Sedlarská ulica, across from the French and Hungarian embassies.

The Dubliner will open in early December on the ground floor and cellar of a building the city intends to reconstruct totally. Norton, whose family has opened four Irish pubs in Prague and one in Brno over the past four years, said the 8 million Sk he is committing to the bar is larger than was invested in any of the five places in the Czech Republic.

A major reason for the high cost is the renovation work he is doing on the building, which he said was in "appalling condition." Aside from a wood burning stove he installed near the entrance, the changes are cosmetic, not structural. To create the atmosphere of an Irish village street, Norton put in a new glass ceiling, cobblestone floor, street lamps, and a facade with thatch-roofed replicas of a neighborhood post office, toy store, shoe store, and pub.

Complementing the nostalgic touches will be a 1 million Sk air conditioning system, sterile restrooms, and genuine "Guinness technology" for beer refrigeration. The 120-seat establishment will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. and will employ about 20 Slovak and Irish staff. And how much for a pint of Guinness? 65 Sk.

Norton said he is already looking for a second space. "We think there is room for another Irish pub."

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