Monday 19 February 2018

Celebrities' favourite restaurant gets eviction notice


The future of the fashionable Unicorn restaurant at Merrion Row in Dublin has been thrown into doubt after the company behind it was served with an eviction notice.

The landlord of the building, Jeff Stokes, father of Dublin socialite twins Chris and Simon Stokes, has issued a notice to the Vino Classico company that owns The Unicorn to evacuate the building within four weeks.

Giorgio Casari, who has fronted the Unicorn restaurant for 15 years, is a director and majority shareholder of Vino Classico. His wife Noreen and son Rudy also work at the restaurant.

Sources say tensions are high between the two men, who have both employed legal representatives.

In a statement last night, Jeff and Pia Bang Stokes said that business will continue as usual at the well-known Merrion Row premises. Mr Stokes said the ownership of the lease is held jointly by his wife and himself as landlords.

He added that "in this tough market" he intends to run the restaurant directly himself.

The news will come as a shock to loyal patrons who have frequented the trendy Merrion Row restaurant-- which became the salon of the great and good during the Celtic Tiger.

With its warm and informal environment and a menu of dishes such as Dublin Bay Prawns Provencale, it has attracted clients such as Tony Blair, Gerry Adams, Seamus Heaney, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson and his late wife, Natasha Richardson, property developer Johnny Ronan and the late Gerry Ryan down through the years.

Self-professed fan, former US president Bill Clinton, has frequently returned to his favourite Irish eatery.

On Mr Clinton's last visit, Bono made sure to have a pint of Guinness and a packet of crisps ready at his table -- and he even penned a letter to Mr Casari thanking him for his kind hospitality.

The website reads "Originating in 1938, the Unicorn Restaurant has been running under the present management and ownership of the ever charismatic Giorgio Casari for 15 years. The Unicorn owes its success to his attention to detail in the many Italian-influenced European dishes that are on offer."

In 2005, Michael Colgan marked Harold Pinter's 75th birthday with a bash full of actors and luvvies of international repute and in 2009 it played host to Brian Friel's 80th birthday party.

Sources say Mr Casari is adamant The Unicorn restaurant cannot continue on at its current location without his permission.

In February last year, suppliers who were owed €2m by the company Springmanor, which was originally behind the restaurant, were stunned to learn that it is no longer run by that company, who's directors were Giorgio Casari and Jeff Stokes.

The firm was put into liquidation and the lease was transferred to a new company -- Vino Classico. The directors of this company are Giorgio Casari and Pia Bang Stokes.

Sunday Independent

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