With its elegant fireplaces, hardwood floors sweeping views of Casco Bay and antique d?cor, it’s hard to believe that R?-R?’s (Irish Gaelic for fun and merriment), Portland’s new Irish pub, was once a fish packing plant gutted by fire.

“I came to see it last year,” said Angela Grogan, a manager at R?-R?. “There was nothing really to see.”

Carefully restored and shipped to Portland, everything in the bar – Victorian furniture, fine china, Guinness, and even some of the staff – was imported from Ireland.

Grogan, originally from County Mayo, Ireland, has been in the United States for the past two years assisting R?-R?’s owners, Irish natives Ciaran Sheehan and David Kelly, in opening the bar.

According to Grogan, Kelly had vacationed in Portland and wanted to open a R?-R? here. There are four other R?-R?s in New England and the Carolinas.

Since the pub opened a month ago, local 20-somethings have taken notice. While the bar seems too formal for rowdy college students, many young drinkers lined up to get into R?-R? St. Patrick’s Day.

“It was non-stop, like a zoo all day,” Grogan said.

Now that the buzz has died down a little, R?-R? is looking to find its place among the local bar scene. Grogan said the pub hopes to bring in live bands in a few weeks.

For now, the pub offers a trivia night from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Winning teams will receive prizes ranging from free drinks to a trip to Ireland, Grogan said. She said the pub is considering starting a college night.

Inside R?-R?, it is hard to tell if the college crowd would be a welcome addition to the upscale atmosphere. Yet, the place is huge. With three separate bars and semi-fine-dining upstairs, maybe R?-R? has room for everyone.

Wait, make that everyone with a fat wallet.

At the upstairs bar I ordered Boddington Pub Ale for $3.75, and my friend Ann got a Guinness for $4. While the beer was tasty, the prices were high for Portland – even if R?-R? is conveniently located next to Casco Bay Ferry Lines, where island-hopping tourists wander aimlessly in search of lobster rolls and blueberry pie.

(And if Portland gets its wish for “Oceangate” – a multi-million dollar waterfront renovation, even more tourists with fat wallets will be flocking to the area).

It was around 10 p.m. and the kitchen was closing, but I looked over the contemporary Irish menu. It seemed ornate and mildly expensive (think gold card, but not quite platinum). I would eat at R?-R? if I wanted to impress a client or my fianc?e’s parents, but not if I wanted to satisfy a craving for fries and Buffalo wings. In other words, I’ll eat there when I’m a grown-up.

Likewies, for a young 20-something, drinking at R?-R? is like stepping into a time warp – there you are, sipping malt brews among suits and sailors. Aye, and don’t spill yer drinks on the nice furniture, lads and lassies.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here