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James Joyce Irish Pub & Restaurant is headed for a revival under the ownership of the Atlas Restaurant Group.
The Baltimore-based hospitality company recently leased the Harbor East Irish pub, one of several restaurants in the upscale waterfront neighborhood that closed in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Atlas CEO Alex Smith said James Joyce will keep its name as well as some of its original furnishings, including a bartop imported from Ireland.
“It was such a great resource for the neighborhood over the years, and it’s a shame that they went out during the pandemic,” Smith said. “We just think the Irish pub is such a great amenity for Harbor East that we decided that we were going to put our Atlas spin on it.”
Smith said he’s aiming to reopen James Joyce by late summer. In the meantime, he said, Atlas plans to invest at least $500,000 in renovations to the space, with upgrades including some new furniture, improvements to the outdoor seating area, repairs to the bartop, a new facade and a fresh coat of paint. Smith said Atlas also plans to make some changes to the restaurant’s menu.
“We’re going to invest some capital into it, but we’re going to leave it an Irish pub,” he said. “We feel it has a lot of life left in it.”
Jimmy Fagan opened the bar and restaurant in 2002 at 616 President St., at the entrance to Harbor East, and the spot became known for its Irish staples like beef stew, shepherd’s pie and drafts of Guinness.
In a statement, the property’s landlord, Harbor East Management Group, heralded the Irish pub’s return.
“James Joyce has been an institution in Harbor East since the neighborhood’s early beginnings, serving as a social hub and gathering place for office happy hours, wedding parties, convention goers and beyond,” said Harbor East Management Group President Tim O’Donald. ” We are thrilled to see the Atlas Restaurant Group revive this well-loved establishment while preserving the venue’s name, welcoming atmosphere, and Irish hospitality. Atlas has a proven track record of creating immersive restaurant environments that deliver on taste, service, and experience and we have no doubt that James Joyce will benefit from the group’s vast expertise and attention to detail.”
The restaurant will host live music seven nights a week, including appearances by Irish bands, once it reopens, Smith said.
The lease is the latest Atlas takeover of an established restaurant. In the past two years, the hospitality group has purchased veteran Baltimore spots including the Waterfront Hotel and the Admiral’s Cup in Fells Point, as well as two landmark Baltimore County restaurants, the Valley Inn and the Oregon Grille.
Amanda Yeager | Baltimore Business Journal