It’s been over two and a half years since a fire gutted the historic building housing the Irish Embassy Pub, a popular downtown Montreal bar.
Owner Paul Quinn managed to salvage a few items from the beloved watering hole, including a fireplace. The memorabilia is now part of the décor where Quinn and his partners hold business meetings in Saint-Henri.
Shortly after the blaze in March of 2018, Quinn vowed to rebuild the pub at its original location at 1234 Bishop St.
“We had been dealing with different construction and builder guys about doing a joint project,” he said.
But at the beginning of 2020, those plans changed and the building was sold for over $4 million.
“The magnitude of a rebuild was a big one,” Quinn said. “It’s not the business I’m in. I’m not a builder.”
The new owners have plans to turn the structure into a 10-storey building, featuring apartment hotels on the first six floors and condos on the top floors.
“The ground floor will be a commercial space, so potentially a bar restaurant,” said Maya Girlando, Bishop Embassy project manager for Groupimmo Elite.
It’s unclear who will occupy that commercial space, but the Irish Embassy Pub does have the option of buying it.
“We’re hoping that we’ll be putting the Irish Embassy back in on the ground floor,” Quinn said.
“They have the first dibs,” said Girlando. “Hopefully they do, but that is not our decision.”
Both Quinn and general manager Joe Cannon agree the developer’s plans go to great lengths to keep the historical façade of the building intact.
“It think it looks great,” said Cannon. “I think he’s done a wonderful job and the design looks great.”
But moving back in is about more than aesthetics.
The new building isn’t scheduled to be finished until 2022 and the coronavirus pandemic has only made things more complicated.
“Because of COVID, everything’s on hold for now,” Quinn said.
Kevin Tracey of the Irish United Societies is rooting for them to make a comeback.
“We’re hoping the Irish Embassy will come back either either in that location or anywhere else,” he said.
“Nobody wants to see an Irish pub go away. It’s a great meeting place … It’s kind of like the Cheers kind of thing where you go in and you always see somebody that you know.”
In the meantime, Quinn and Cannon are busy developing a beer-brewing business and are confident Montreal’s economy will eventually bounce back.
“Especially when the REM gets going,” Cannon said, explaining light-rail train project, once completed, will bring people back to the city.
“I think it’ll be an exciting time.”
— With files from Global’s Dan Spector