With 25 per cent of trade coming from cocktails and a lavish art-deco look, Zozimus, newly opened on Anne’s Lane in Dublin, is something of a departure from the capital’s bar scene. Andrew Jennings visited to take a closer look.
‘Ye sons and daughters of Erin, Gather round poor Zozimus, yer friend;
Listen boys, until yez hear My charming song so dear.’
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So began Michael Moran (aka Zozimus), the blind balladeer and poet who, in the early nineteenth century, entertained his public along the streets of Dublin.
It is anyone’s guess what the Blind Bard of the Liberties would think of the new ornate bar named in his honour on Anne’s Lane in Dublin 2, but he would probably be pleased.
The man behind this chic new establishment is Derry Desmond (son of billionaire tycoon Dermot), who along with Michael Lavelle and Suzanne McNulty, has been named a director of Zozimus.
With an investment in the region of €2 million rumoured to have been poured into the new bar, Zozimus, located next door to Dermot’s high-end Sporting Emporium casino, looks set to become the capital’s most exclusive nightspot for summer 2016.
Opened in early March, bar manager Pat Dowling tells Hospitality Ireland’s Andrew Jennings that the venue is still ironing out a few of the creases that regularly accompany the first couple of months after opening, but adds that he is delighted with how it has been received so far.
“When you open a place like this, you are going to have a few teething problems, with staffing in particular,” says Dowling, who worked for 15 years for the Louis Fitzgerald Group, including stints at the nearby Stag’s Head and Kehoe’s, before joining Derry Desmond’s new team.
Presently, Zozimus has 30 staff members, including ten bar staff, 12 on the floor and four in the kitchen, but “we’ve not got our full complement just yet,” says Dowling.
“We now have most of the bar staff we wanted in, but we’re still looking for some waitstaff. In the beginning, we didn’t go out headhunting staff. We had a kind of purist idea that we’d just go out and be able to find people, but quickly discovered that with the amount of cocktails that we were doing, we would have to go looking for different options.”
The Zozimus manager isn’t keen to put a particular tag on the bar.
“Really, what we’re offering is high-end craft cocktails, high-end spirits, plus what we think is one of the best wine lists in the city, alongside a unique food offering.”
Open seven days a week and late (2.30am) on Friday and Saturday, Zozimus is capitalising on Dublin’s thirst for cocktails, which, Dowling reveals, has made up 25 per cent of the venue’s trade since opening.
The bar has capacity for 220 people, but Dowling says that due to it being a cocktail-driven business, it will rarely permit that many through the door.
“We don’t want people waiting long to be served. We’ll look at what capacity our bartenders can manage on a given night, then make a call on it.”
The unique design of the bar is by the Barcelona-based Lázaro House, which has worked its magic on dozens of restaurants and hotels all over the globe.
“Regarding design, we are a little bit different to everything else opening in Dublin at the moment. So many places seem to have a fascination with exposed red brick and industrial lighting,” says Dowling.
“We do have a bit of an art-deco feel. There’s a real classical, opulent feel, full of colour, and full of warmth and texture.” The venue’s food offering is still very much in its infancy, but that is due to change over the summer, as Zozimus finds its feet. “At the moment, food is dragging its heels a bit,” states Dowling, adding that it has only contributed approximately 15 per cent to weekly turnover since opening.
“We are very keen to increase that percentage as soon as possible. At the moment, we’re open from 3pm to 10pm for food, which is doing quite well, however, the plan is to open weekends for brunch in the next month or so, and once we get a few things sorted, open weekdays for lunch, too.”
With years of experience working on the bar scene in Dublin for the Fitzgerald Group, Dowling believes that now is a good time to be opening, as the capital bounces back to health following the bleak years of recession. “Dublin is definitely seeing a rebound, and I think people are looking for something bit different now,” he says.
“Thus far, our custom has come from locals, mostly, but the tourist season is just kicking into full swing, so we expect to see more of an influx of people visiting.
“When we looked at what we were trying to do here, the brands that we associate ourselves with are premium. Everything that we use is premium, whether it’s the glassware that we use – things you don’t find in any other bar. The spirits we pour are a notch above most other bars in the city, so the price points reflect that. “We want to offer five-star service in a more relaxed bar atmosphere than you might find in, say, a five-star hotel bar.”