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Monday 5 December 2016

Danu Partners plots new 'smaller' Dublin outpost for iconic New York steakhouse Smith & Wollensky

Published 27/03/2016 | 02:30

Smith and Wollensky, on 49th Street in New York, does a roaring trade, particularly for its signature steaks, which sell for around $50
Smith and Wollensky, on 49th Street in New York, does a roaring trade, particularly for its signature steaks, which sell for around $50

Ireland's Danu Partners wants to bring its newly acquired US steakhouse chain Smith & Wollensky, once described by the New York Times as the "steakhouse to end all arguments", to Dublin.

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Danu consists of Leonard Ryan and Michael O'Rourke, who in their 20s co-founded the Setanta Sports group, along with business partner Mark O'Meara.

Having sold most of their assets in the television industry, the Danu trio are now investing heavily in hospitality.

They bought Smith & Wollensky, which includes seven steakhouses in locations such as Chicago, Boston and Las Vegas, after dining there for years with contacts from the US sporting world.

The original New York restaurant was excluded from the deal.

At high-end Smith & Wollensky, which was originally set up by the same man behind TGI Fridays, steaks retail for around the $50 mark.

Danu is now weighing up a Dublin outpost of the chain, albeit a smaller version, more in line with the capital's customer base.

A second London location is also being planned. Danu already has one Smith & Wollensky in the English capital, opened under a licence agreement months before it acquired the entire chain.

The Dublin and London restaurants will be directly owned but licensing agreements will be used to open Smith & Wollenskys in the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

Danu is also an investor in the Mercantile Group, the newly merged Dublin pub and restaurant business led by Frank Gleeson.

Mercantile is also on an expansion track. Owners Danu, Gleeson and silent investor TJ Magen are investing €8m in upgrading its existing portfolio, before plunging into the London market.

Cafe en Seine, on Dublin's Dawson Street, is getting a €2.5m facelift, while the Lost Society nightclub, on Dublin's South William Street, is being rebranded as Farrier and Draper, with a Viennese restaurant opening in its basement.

The Scandinavian-Asian fusion restaurant Soder and Ko, on South Great Georges Street, may be revamped as an upmarket pizza restaurant.

A London venue is next on the cards, although it is about two years away.

"London is attractive because it offers more value than Dublin right now," Gleeson said. "Rents and property prices in Dublin 2 are in some cases more expensive than they were during the boom."

With 12 Dublin outlets, the group doesn't want to start competing with itself in the capital, he added.

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