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Exclusive VIP club the Residence Lounge isn't what you think -- it's better. That's why, as a proud regular, I bemoan its current hardship

The news of Residence's financial woes will, no doubt, be greeted by a heady cocktail of disdain, perhaps akin to a tipple you imagine its staff might serve on a regular basis in the bar of its luxurious lounge overlooking St Stephen's Green.

"I'll have a Schadenfreude, please," "it's one measure of glee, one measure of ambivalence, and a large shot of 'it serves them right'." But such a verdict, widespread though it probably is, strikes me as unfair.

Full disclosure first -- I'm a member, and have been since day one. Back in January 2008, it seemed like a great idea, such an obvious gap in the market that you had to applaud the foresight of the Stokes twins, Simon and Christian.

For many people, private members' clubs conjured up an image of stuffy, Victorian drawing rooms, replete with leather sofas and decanters of sherry, with snoozing red-nosed old men, some of whom had actually died in the previous weeks, but which had gone unnoticed by the other, equally fruity members.

But Residence promised to be different, embracing all that was good about modern Irish social life. Stylish, subdued decor. Well-chosen wines and excellent bar food. A large back garden converted into a spacious, heated seating area for those unfortunate smokers still among us. A fabulous restaurant, and a louche, opulent piano bar on the second floor.

Hub

Good idea, bad timing. Just as it opened its doors in the summer of 2008, the clouds of recession were blowing in and, despite healthy membership numbers, those members were simply not spending enough money to make the figures stack up.

On weekend nights, Residence was always a hub of activity, with music, chat and good-looking people on every floor. It felt more like an upmarket nightclub, and with the strict 'no randomers' door policy enforced with subtlety yet strength by its skilled door staff, it managed to avoid being a resting place for the crashing bores from neighbouring Doheny & Nesbitts. On the other five days of the week, however, it suffered. But in that it was certainly not alone, and can certainly not be blamed.

So does Residence deserve a future? The answer should be a resounding yes.

It is not, contrary to popular belief, a millionaires' club where cigars are lit with €100 notes, and virgins are sacrificed over a grand piano every Friday at midnight. All the costs once you're inside are on a par with any other bar or restaurant in the surrounding area. The restaurant, under the skilled hand of head chef Graham Neville, has been a triumph, earning a place in the Dubliner's Top 100 List this year.

And as the piano started in the upstairs bar around midnight, very often with an impromptu performance by Eamon Dunphy or Eamon Keane, a golden glow would descend upon the gathered throngs, which could be emulated only by a late-night stop in the only more salubrious joint in Dublin -- Copperface Jacks.

There is much we shouldn't miss about the Celtic Tiger years. Ignorant, arrogant rich-kid sons of property developers, ostentatiously flashing their parents' cash with Bentleys and Rolex watches, a perma-tanned model on their arm. Rude, semi-literate taxi drivers boasting about their pad in Marbella. Celebrity fitness instructors, lawyers, dentists and financial advisors.

But Residence, for all its whiff of arriviste, new money, has always been a slightly old-fashioned oasis of calm, style and impeccable good manners in a city otherwise gone mad.

Owned and run by young, hard-working and dedicated staff, it doesn't deserve to go under. I bemoan their temporary hardship, but wish them a speedy recovery.


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