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Irish pubs are popping up in Bethlehem

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The Christmas City could soon be getting a double dose of the Emerald Isle when one Irish pub and possibly another join its growing list of Guinness-loving locales.

As I've reported in past columns, an Irish pub is already in the works at McCarthy's Restaurant and Pub on Main Street in historic Bethlehem. Owner Neville Gardner and a team of helpers completed the first step in the eatery's transformation in mid-February — installing a new 12-seat bar with seven taps on the main floor.

What's less certain is the arrival of Molly Brannigans, an Irish pub chain that could be setting up shop in the former Starters Riverport on West Second Street in south Bethlehem.

According to developer Lou Pektor, who owns the space, the talks have been "intense" with the Erie-based company.

"There is certainly an interest on their part and a strong interest on ours," said Pektor, who stressed that the two parties are only in negotiations at this point. "It would be a great economic engine to South Side Bethlehem."

The chain originally announced interest in Bethlehem in 2007 when it deemed the ground floor of the former Farr's shoe store building (now a Merchants Bank) at Broad and New streets to be a good fit.

A souring economy and the chain's desire for more space impeded the deal, Pektor said.

Now, the two parties are again in talks — mostly concerning the "significant costs" associated with getting the 23,000-square-foot facility in shape.

"It's a hard nut to crack to fill that space," said Pektor, owner of Ashley Development. "It's very big."

According to Molly Brannigans' website, its establishments feature interiors designed and handcrafted in Ireland. Bars, tables, chairs, mirrors, pictures, bric-a-brac, hearth and mantle are all imported and then reconstructed on site by skilled Irish craftsmen.

Menu items range from pub grub such as Molly's reuben and Paddy's pot roast to traditional Irish fare such as Irish bangers and St. James Guinness stew.

Molly Brannigans, which did not return an email or phone message seeking comment, has locations in Erie and Harrisburg. In recent years, the company has closed venues in Pittsburgh, Scranton and Mesa, Ariz., Info: mollybrannigans.com.

As far as the new Irish pub at McCarthy's goes, construction of an additional bar, kitchen and dining room on the second floor are expected to be complete by mid-May, Gardner said.

"At that point, we will begin more renovations on the first floor, which I'm hoping to finish by Celtic Classic, but they could last until Christmas," he added.

The pub, which Gardner plans to name "Red Stag," will feature about 70 seats on the first floor and about 40 seats on the second. New menu items, including boxty, shepherd's pie and chili with Irish cheese, are already being introduced.

Info: 610-861-7631 or mccarthystearoom.com.

Other Irish-themed restaurants in Bethlehem include St. James Gate Irish Pub and Carvery (inside Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem) and Molly's Irish Pub and Grille, on the South Side's Fourth Street.

Now that I've made you crave fish and chips, soda bread and maybe some Irish whiskey, let's move on to other news.

Recycle Your Fashions, a locally owned online consignment website, has opened its first drop-off location at 630 Municipal Drive in Lower Nazareth Township.

The business, which keeps 50 percent of sales prices, was started in 2009 by husband and wife Carlos and Rahmieneh Ortiz of Lower Saucon Township. It previously operated on a mail-in basis only, accepting clothing, shoes and accessories from customers globally.

The couple expects the service to improve the company's product line, widen its customer base and add jobs. They plan to add other drop-off locations throughout the Lehigh Valley. Info: recycleyourfashions.com.

I have a couple hair-care happenings to report.

First, G&A Christian Barbershop has moved from its location of 16 years at 21 S. Eighth St. in Allentown to 1148 W. Tilghman St.

According to co-owner Andrew Jones, the move a couple of weeks ago was not voluntary as the owners of the business' old location have other plans for the building.

G&A, derived from the initials of Jones and his business partner Gunzalis Smith's names, labels itself the "only Christian barbershop in the Lehigh Valley."

Jones says the shop is welcoming of all religions and the Christian aspect relates only to its "clean, family-friendly atmosphere."

"There is no vulgarity on TV and no cursing allowed," Jones added. "We create an environment where our customers become our friends and everyone feels comfortable." Info: 610-770-3136 or gnachristianbarbershop.com.

Second, Patricia McAdams-Burt became the new owner of New Attitude Salon & Day Spa at 101 Village at Stones Crossing in Palmer Township on Feb. 3.

A resident of Williams Township, McAdams-Burt has more than 25 years of experience as a stylist, skin technician and makeup specialist. She says she fulfilled a lifelong dream when she purchased the 25-year-old business from founder Rosemary Pugliese, who remains on staff.

New Attitude, just off William Penn Highway, specializes in upscale styling, makeup, facials, coloring and waxing. McAdams-Burt also plans to introduce massage therapy and a boutique selling jewelry, purses and other accessories. Info: 610-253-5550 or newattitudesalondayspa.com.

Downtown Easton will soon be welcoming another restaurant when Ginny's Bistro & Wine Bar opens in a few weeks at 612 Northampton St. The space was formerly occupied by a bar known as Maria's Place.

According to Director of Operations Thomas Campbell, the eatery is tentatively scheduled to open April 4, but if that's not feasible, "definitely by April 11."

Named after Campbell's late grandmother, Virginia Mary Winbush, the 40-seat eatery will serve a variety of ethnic cuisine and Pinnacle Ridge wine by the bottle or glass.

Executive chef Peter Choida, a former head chef at Ciro's Italian Bistro in Stroudsburg, will create "unique tapas" such as Ginny's crab quesadilla and roasted prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, as well as entrees such as tortellini chicken florentine and blackened tuna steak.

A major overhaul of the space began in June and included the construction of a kitchen and the restoration of a 12-seat bar. Other improvements include new dry wall, electrical wiring, flooring, furniture and a heating/air-conditioning unit.

Ginny's, which has partnered with the Pennsylvania Jazz Collective, will house a piano and feature live music Thursday through Saturday.

Hours will be 4-10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and 4 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant will eventually be open on Sundays, offering children's activities and jazz or gospel brunches.

Ginny's, which will be BYOB, will also feature a couple of outdoor tables during warmer months. Info: 610-438-1676 or ginnysbistro.com.

I'll finish with two Lehigh County restaurants that have recently shut their doors. One is temporary while the other seems to be permanent.

First, West Side Diner at 701 N. 19th St. in Allentown closed several weeks ago. Signs in the windows indicate the eatery will reopen soon under new management.

I've been unable to reach the owner regarding any possible changes to the space, menu and operations.

Second, The Pantry Diner at 1701 Susquehanna St. in Salisbury Township appears to have closed for good. The doors have been locked for more than a week and the phone number has been disconnected.

Retail Watch keeps track of new store, restaurant and bank development in the Lehigh Valley. Have a question about a retail construction project, store opening or chain you'd like to see come to the area? Contact reporter Ryan Kneller at 610-820-6597 or retailwatch@mcall.com. Retail Watch appears every Sunday.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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