A former church on Lower Abbey Street in Dublin’s north inner city, used over the past decade as a rehearsal venue by the Abbey Theatre, was at the centre of a real-life drama at a hotly contested auction last week when it was sold to British pub chain JD Wetherspoon for €1.475 million, substantially more than the €400,000 guide price.
Wetherspoon’s success in buying the former Baptist church opposite the VHI headquarters means it will be able to amalgamate it with the former TSB bank at 12B Lower Abbey Street which it bought earlier this year for €1.5 million. Wetherspoon is expected to run the two buildings as a gastropub.
Over a dozen parties expressed interest in the Office of Public Works property and showed up for the Finnegan Menton auction.
However, only six of them managed to register bids after the opening offer of €350,000. Auctioneer Iain Finnegan of Finnegan Menton recorded no fewer than 77 bids in all and when the figure reached €1.2 million it was a straight battle between Wetherspoon and Irish Life, owners of the adjoining office centre.
Nicholas Corson of Finnegan Menton told The Irish Times the various bidders had expressed interest in redeveloping the building for a range of uses, including offices, apartments, a restaurant and a hotel.
The two-storey corner building has an overall floor area of 394sq m (4,240sq ft) including a light-filled church extending across the entire width of the building with an overhanging balcony wrapped around the hall. There are additional rooms to the front and rear at ground and first floor levels.
Gareth Shiells of Shiells & Co acted for Wetherspoon which already operates five bars in the Republic and plans to open 30 across Ireland in the next five years. Its first two were The Three Tun Tavern in Blackrock and the Forty Foot in Dún Laoghaire.
This summer, it opened up three more: The Great Wood in Westend Shopping Park in Blanchardstown, The Old Borough in Swords and The Linen Weaver in Cork. The group was founded in 1979 and has 900 bars in Britain.
Finnegan Menton held a second auction after the sale of the former church, disposing of a four-bedroom Victorian residence at 17 Harcourt Terrace in Dublin 2 for €965,000. The two-storey redbrick house in need of upgrading had been expected to make at least €800,000.