Georgian goes modern in new club Spy


There are so many bars in Dublin you have to "come at it from a different angle" when you open a new one, says nightclub operator John Reynolds. With his latest venture, Spy, on South William Street, Dublin 2, which has just been granted its late licence, Reynolds certainly has done just that.

Starkly different angles are what Spy is all about. Contemporary modern design floats on a Georgian landscape. The mood is discreet and sophisticated, with low lighting and a lounge-like atmosphere, yet in a few weeks voyeurs will be able to log on to the site and watch patrons playing pool and queuing for the unisex toilets. It's a club, not a pub, but opens earlier than others, at 7 p.m. Its quirkiness is very deliberate. "We wanted it visually stimulating, shocking almost, with an edge to it and a sense of humour but without taking away from the ornateness of the Georgian rooms," says Reynolds

Spy spans three separate spaces. The members' room was once the diningroom of the old Georgian house which is now the Powerscourt Townhouse shopping centre, the Pink Room is the old parlour and the lobby was once a coach-house. The two main rooms are Grade 1 listed and were renovated in consultation with the Georgian Society. It took over two years of painstaking work, says Reynolds, who leased the building from Clarendon Properties Ltd three years ago.

Reynolds admits that the success of the revamp owes a lot to the magnificent building. "There is nothing as ornate and stunning as original Georgian Dublin but I can take no credit for that. With that kind of infrastructure, you'd have to be some kind of idiot to mess it up."

The dramatic marble fireplace in the Pink Room, which hadn't had a fire lit in it for 75 years, is an example of the building's exquisite period features. Over the mantelpiece hangs a black and white picture of a sailor with a number of suspiciously bogus-looking nuns. Two long pink fluffy couches and a chrome bar are in bold contrast to the imposing, elegant backdrop. It may sound bizarre but the effect is mesmerising.

Since it opened in December, the promotion of Spy has been low key, with the owner relying mostly on word of mouth. Now it has its late licence, "we are going to start to make it happen" he says.

The club's unisex toilets have been causing a stir. Some people are not sure about them. "There are certain people saying that females want their privacy. It's the one place where they get solitude, where they can be with their own kind. With the unisex loos you are on show all the time. They are different to what we are used to and some people like the idea and some don't."

In six weeks, Reynolds is opening a bar/restaurant downstairs called Wax, which he says will be along the lines of the Chocolate Bar. Another project, due to be completed by the middle of the summer, is a bar/ restaurant in the 7,000 sq ft former sausage factory on Fade Street.

Reynolds claims there will be nothing run-of-the-mill about this bar/restaurant, which will contain a small record shop, newsagent and florist so that people can drink and browse. "Bars should not be just about alcohol."