By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Lapa’s first Irish Pub opened under The Arches of the Carioca Aqueduct, one of the city’s most notorious intersections. This bucks the trend of yet-another-new-bar in Zona Sul for both owner Armando Millem, and anyone with a passing interest in the future of Lapa itself.
Armando hopes that the presence of the new premises will help engender a rejuvenation of the immediate area, similar to what occurred in the Ipanema square some seven years ago when the original Irish Pub opened along Praça General Osorio.
Opened in 2002 by Padraig Flavin and Armando, the original Ipanema Irish Pub was something of a pioneer for an area far removed from the tourist hub it is today. Shenanigans may have already been there a year or two, but the remaining non-residential three sides of Praça General Osorio were run-down, and the north edge was a far cry from the safety its pedestrians now enjoy. By teaming up with their incoming Banana Jack’s neighbors, the bar and restaurant owners managed to slowly exert pressure onto the Prefeitura to clean up the area, and before the work on the Metro station began, a level of tranquility was palpable in the square’s streets.
“The clientele has always been a mix of intrigued Brazilians who have not experienced Irish/European pub culture, tourists and expatriates, so apart from the obvious high season from November through to Carnival, since we opened in Ipanema business has been very, very good” says Armando.
His partner Padraig was the first to introduce draft Guinness to Rio with his original pub in Copacabana, and the appetite in the city for such establishments was quickly established. The Lord Jim has been a name on the Rio bar scene for some three decades, but for a city of its size, Rio remains largely untouched by overseas bar fashions.
However Armando has started to see the shift in business away from Praça General Osorio towards the likes of Vinicius de Moraes and Farme do Amoedo, of which the not inconsiderable Metro works must be a factor. As well as the noise and road closures, the hike in rent that the local landlords will expect from the development means that new premises had already been considered for the bar.
“Barra was out of the question for us” continues Armanado from his fresh-looking month-old premises in Lapa, “new bars there tend to thrive for a year, maybe two, then something new appears and the customers dry up. Leblon is still prohibitively expensive, so I think Ipanema is where we will stay. Pubs are about ‘regulars’ and that is what we have and want to keep.”
Indeed, the ‘Luves’ taxes charged to any new commercial premises, payable to the former business regardless of whether the property has been left empty for months, make the idea of setting up in areas of high rent next to impossible. It was with this in mind that Armando was drawn to Lapa, and having been approached by an Australian who was running a hostel and bar but was interested in setting up an Irish Pub, the new location was born.
“We want to try and do to Lapa what we did with General Osorio. We hope to speak with the other owners next door, and to the Lapa Legal Prefeitura project designed to clean up the area, and make what is already a hugely popular area even more attractive to people coming here.”
Padraig has not come along for this new venture, and Armando has teamed up with Rodrigo Mendonça and Andre Brasil to establish the new bar.