Refurbished Cafe en Seine doubled sales to €9.5m before pandemic

Dublin superpub owner Mercantile Group still open to expansion despite hit from virus

The bar of Cafe en Seine, on Dawson Street, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The bar of Cafe en Seine, on Dawson Street, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Cafe en Seine, the Dublin superpub owned by the Mercantile Group, almost doubled its normal annual sales last year to about €9.5 million following a revamp, it is understood.

The huge venue on Dawson Street is among four of the group’s venues that have reopened to serve food since the onset of the pandemic, alongside Pichet restaurant, NoLita and Opium, all on the city’s southside. The group’s prominent gay bar The George remains closed, along with music venue Whelan’s, which is next door to Opium on Wexford Street.

The group’s Mercantile hotel and sports bar on Dame Street is also closed for now. The group got the go-ahead from An Bord Pleanála during lockdown for a €10 million extension of the hotel, which will more than triple its rooms to about 109.

It is expected that, despite the pandemic, construction could start next year on the hotel, provided a dispute is resolved with a tenant in the offices that must be removed to make way for the extension.

Accounts for 2018 for Mercantile group company Ardan Advisory, which only became available in the Companies Registration Office this week, show annual sales increased slightly to €29.8 million, even though Cafe en Seine was closed for 22 weeks for refurbishment during the period.

The directors of the group said in a note to the accounts that Mercantile’s ebitda (earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation – a standard financial metric) were €5.2 million, while it made an operating profit of just under €1 million. The group made a bottom line loss for the year of more than €350,000, after servicing its loans.

Post-virus shakeout

The directors’ commentary with the accounts, signed off last November before the pandemic hit, suggests Mercantile is open to making more acquisitions. It is understood that the group is still willing to consider buying other properties if opportunities arise in a post-virus shakeout.

As the freehold owner of all its properties, Mercantile is well-placed to absorb a hit from the pandemic, with no landlords.

The 2018 accounts valued its assets at €60 million at the end of that year, while it owed banks about €25 million and its shareholders were owed about €13.5 million, after helping to finance a €30 refurbishment programme at its venues. Staff numbers were about 310.

The Mercantile group is owned by a US-Irish consortium of investors, including builder Maurice Regan and Michael Breslin, who once owned a large US scaffolding business. The group declined to make any comment when contacted.