With a significant Irish community now, Atlanta seems to make sense as Irish pub chain Fado’s headquarters for the U.S.
But it was actually a combination of Atlanta’s “non-Irishness” and its direct air links to the country that drew investors seeking to create a new brand in 1996.
“We felt there was an opportunity to open an authentic Irish pub that was really more contemporary. At the time, Riverdance was a big hit, and we wanted to do for Irish pubs what Riverdance did for Irish music – in other words, bring it into the 21st century,” said Kieran McGill, who grew up in the pub business in Dublin and started Fado in the U.S.
The 1996 summer Olympics was a “bonus,” but Atlanta had other characteristics that made it attractive.
“One of the reasons we selected Atlanta was because it had a very small Irish community,” Mr. McGill said. He wanted to prove the that concept could work outside places like Chicago, Boston or New York, where large Irish communities already had entrenched local hangouts.
Atlanta was one of the few cities outside those traditional gateways with direct air links to his country. The hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport played a crucial role in transporting Mr. McGill between Atlanta and Dublin in the early days. When he finally crossed the pond for good, the airport helped his team expand nationally. Now, Fado pubs can be found in 10 cities, including some of those metropolises he passed over at the beginning.
This fall, Atlanta is set to become the first city to graduate to two Fados. Distinctive interior trimmings for a new Midtown location are currently being fabricated in Dublin.
The new location’s effect on the longstanding Buckhead branch’s sales should be “minimal,” Mr. McGill said. Fado has been trying for six years to enter Midtown, but this time things finally clicked with the new location at the corner of 8th and Peachtree streets.
Midtown is a market of its own and the perfect place for a second location with its mix of business, residential and office developments, he said.
“Atlanta’s our home base. It’s where our office is, it’s where we did our first pub, it’s where we live and work and it just feels right to do it here,” Mr. McGill said.
The new location is just a few blocks away from another Midtown Irish pub: RiRa. Mr. McGill admitted there would be some overlap but said young people like to hop to different bars for drinks. The more locations, the more attractive the neighborhood is overall, he said.
“They’re friends of ours; we know them very well. If anything I think we’ll complement each other,” he said.
While the airport is still key to the nationwide business, the dream of opening a Fado inside Hartsfield-Jackson has been more elusive.
“We’d like to be in the airport for sure, and I think we could do pretty well in the Atlanta airport, but that whole bid process is a whole different world,” Mr. McGill said, adding that a previous bid with a concession operator failed.
Working with experienced concession partners, Fado’s smaller brand, Tigin, has locations in New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.