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Judge grants order allowing distillery to serve booze in former church

St James’s was initially a Roman Catholic church that became Protestant after the Reformation in 1539.

Image: Shutterstock/Evgeny Karandaev

AN OLD DUBLIN church will throw open its doors in a few weeks time with drinks all round for those who wish to imbibe.

Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke has granted The Pearse Lyons Distillery a declaratory order for the former St James’s Church on James’s Street.

The Circuit Licensing Court direction means that when completed in full compliance with planning permission the whiskey distillery company will be entitled to a full drinks license.

Barrister Dorothy Collins, counsel for The Pearse Lyons Distillery, told Judge Groarke that a €10million refurbishment would be completed by September when the new whiskey distillery would be opened to the public.

Irish-born Pearse Lyons and his wife, Deirdre, are the moving force behind the new venture. They are founders of Alltech, a €1.9 billion animal nutrition company based in Nicholasville, Kentucky and a European Bioscience Centre in Dunboyne, Co Meath.

The couple also own a brewery and distillery in Kentucky.

Church

PastedImage-61278 The current site of distillery. Source: Google Maps

St James’s was initially a Roman Catholic church that became Protestant after the Reformation in 1539 and was deconsecrated in 1963. Latterly it was used as showrooms for Lighting World.

It sits on a two-acre cemetery which dates back to 1190. It was so full that burials overflowed into other parts of the grounds and in some cases up to nine people shared single graves.

A church has stood on the site since the 12th century and the most recent building dates from 1859-60. It was bought for €690,000 and the refurbishment, ongoing since 2014, and installation of stills has cost €10.5million.

“A few months after we purchased St James’s it was made a national monument so we had to employ conservation architects for the renovation,” Deirdre Lyons said.

She said the roof trusses turned out to have dry rot and had to be replaced at a cost of €1.3million. Some of the limestone pillars had also been damaged and were replaced with stone from Caen in France.

While preparing for the crane to hoist in the stills, ancient human remains had been discovered and archaeologists were engaged to document the findings.

Specially made stained glass windows depicting the steps of distilling have been installed and one window is devoted to the Camkino de Santiago, as it was from here pilgrims began the journey to Spain.

Nigel Tidbury, a director of Alltechs Beverage Division Ireland Limited, told the Circuit Licensing Court that there would be a visitors centre on one side of the church and a walkway through the graveyard into the distillery.

When the boutique distillery is up and running it will produce 1,000 litres of whiskey a week and is expected to attract up to 75,000 visitors a year.

About the author:

Ray Managh

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