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Shebeen Chic fights for survival

Shebeen Chic, the kitsch and stylishly chaotic nightspot on South Great George's Street, boasts a loyal and eclectic clientele.

Tortured artists, ageing hippies and bright young things waiting for their 15 minutes of fame have made it their home from home.

But the pub, music venue and eatery is facing closure following a bitter and now deeply personal dispute between landlord and tenant which has led to serial entrepreneur Jay Bourke facing eviction tomorrow.

And it is 21 workers at Shebeen Chic who are the meat in a triple-decker sandwich of protracted litigation and who face losing their jobs after the High Court made the order for them to vacate the premises.

They have vowed to fight on and barricade themselves in but it is clear that the writing is on the wall.

Shebeen Chic manager Orlagh Murphy managed to turn around a loss-making business and transform it into an achingly fashionable haven on the southside of the river.

"The staff here have made this place what it is and they are willing to fight to save their jobs," she says.

"I am trading as normal. I am booking bands and buying stock. All we are looking for is forbearance, the landlord doesn't have to enforce the eviction order immediately, he can give us time," she said.

The breakdown between tenant Jay Bourke and landlord Cessona Ltd, of which auctioneer John Kenneally is co-director, began shortly after Shebeen Chic opened and relates to late lodgement of both the rent, which totalled €156,000 per annum, and €8,000 a month in leasing bills, which Mr Bourke concedes happened.

The matter has taken a tortuous route through the courts, culminating in last week's High Court eviction notice. The first eviction notice was issued in July on foot of a clause in the rental agreement which allows either party to terminate the lease.

That eviction date was originally set for January 31 next year and the company that controls Shebeen Chic headed up by Mr Bourke was ordered to pay legal fees of €30,000 by September 1 last.

That payment was five days late, Mr Bourke admits, which led the Shebeen Chic company to be ordered back to court on September 21 when the eviction date was brought forward to tomorrow.

Mr Bourke said he had made substantial improvements to the building, including work on the sewerage system, which broke down during the crucial Christmas period.

"From day one there have been problems and we have endeavoured constantly to come to agreement after agreement to keep the business going, to no avail.

"We have paid a lot of rent, over 570,000 in three years, and all we have been faced with is aggression and unreasonable behaviour," Mr Bourke said.

John Kenneally, on behalf of Cessona, said that Mr Bourke had not been a good tenant "from day one".

"We have other tenants in the same building and never had a problem. Mr Bourke is hiding behind the workers but their real problem is with him, not us," he said.

Sunday Independent