Irish pubs are popping up in Bethlehem

McCarthy's is the next to open in Bethlehem and another may follow on the city's South Side.

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.

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