By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Months after opening last December, Waxy’s Irish Pub in Ipanema has closed. Despite busy weekend nights, the bar on Rua Vinícius de Moraes has been struggling in recent months leading British owner Dan Yantin to take the decision to close and sell the premises.
“We could have gone on, but we had interest in the premises and so decided to take the opportunity”, Dan says. “To be honest it was always the plan to build the bar and sell on. It’s just happened sooner than anticipated”.
The Rio bar was Yantin’s second venture following the success of the original Waxy’s in Dubai, an established nightspot popular with the expat community in the Arab emirate. However in Brazil he was working with a culture quite different from the high spending, hard drinking Dubai clientèle, and as Dan explains, “Brazil doesn’t have a drinking culture that supports a place like Waxy’s. For me, there was no meat in the sandwich”.
Pointing to Brazil’s famously complicated bureaucracy as a factor in his decision to close, he adds that “Red tape in this country will hold a lot of expats back from coming and investing”, he says. “But on the whole Brazil has a lot to offer”.
With a varied drink menu, traditional pub food and regular live music nights, Waxy’s intentions were obvious but it failed to become a real “hot-spot” for the bulk of the Zona Sul scene. Beyond missing the Ipanema drinking and nightlife crowds, though, some view the closure as a result of poor administration by management. One unnamed former staff member says; “They didn’t know how to treat staff, what to put on the menu, what to charge or how to market the bar. As a result, there were not enough customers”.
A consultant who helped in the development of the bar goes further; “It’s a premises with lots of potential but there wasn’t the capability or experience. The Brazilian taste is very different. This isn’t Dubai”.
Both employees and two others interviewed by The Rio Times claim not to have been paid what they were owed by Waxy’s management, in one case for four month’s work, but these are allegations Dan firmly denies: “That’s one hundred percent not true. The staff eat before I do and I’m sad to hear that that’s being said”.
Having opened at around the same time also on Rua Vinícius de Moraes, Mexican bar restaurant Blue Agave‘s Rich Nelson was keen for Waxy’s to succeed, saying “it’s better for us if it’s busy there and I think for a place like that it to make money it needs to be busy every night”.
Mike Taylor, co-owner of Ipanema’s most established Irish bar Shenanigans on Praça General Osório, sympathizes with the difficulties that caused Dan to close. “The day to day bureaucracy, problems with products and deliveries, things like that can make you lose your patience and not want to work in Brazil” he says. “But it also has a lot to do with location and climate and I don’t know how successful that was there”.
One man with high hopes for the premises is new owner Robson M. Rodrigues. Coming from São Paulo and with a background in electrical imports and the experience of running two bars in Sampa, Robson plans to open his venture, Green Club in the next few weeks. “The renovation work is underway. It’s going to have a different visual character and be more like a nightclub with and eclectic mix of DJs and live music” he explains.
Dan, who is nurturing his existing projects as well as considering export and consulting opportunities in Brazil, wishes every success for the new venture. On his experience, he reflects, “I’ve learned a lot and will definitely use what I’ve learned here in the future”.