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Italian restaurant planned at Du Vin’s former location

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    J.J. Dolan’s partners John J. Niebuhr, left, and Daniel C. Dolan plan to open a Mediterranean-influenced restaurant in the former Brasserie Du Vin space downtown.

The business partners who own an Irish pub serving New York-style pizza in Chinatown will open an Italian restaurant in the former Brasserie Du Vin French restaurant space next year.

John Niebuhr, the “JJ” in J.J. Dolan’s, and Danny Dolan, the, well, Dolan in the restaurant name, don’t yet have a name for the new restaurant, but “we’re looking at more of an Italian, Mediterranean, Portuguese” type of restaurant, “that whole type of Mediterranean influence,” Niebuhr told TheBuzz.

While some of the fare will be Italian, there are no plans for the partners’ new restaurant to serve pizza just steps away from J.J. Dolan’s, Niebuhr laughed.

They will, however, try to “re-establish a great wine bar,” he said. “Maybe not as extensive as Dave Stewart had (in Brasserie Du Vin), but in keeping with that, making some really good and some great wines available and accessible to the downtown community.”

Food Ventures

>> J.J. Dolan’s 1147 Bethel St.
>> Former Brasserie Du Vin 1115 Bethel St.
>> Ferguson’s Pub 729 Bishop St.

The interior has great “bones,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is tighten up the skin a little bit.”

Renovation work will include redoing the draught system for beers, of which the partners intend to offer locally produced brews that were not available when J.J. Dolan’s opened in 2008.

The new restaurant will offer “locally distilled spirits as well,” in keeping with their plan to source locally for the menu and the bar, Niebuhr said.

He did not want to use the word “fancy” to describe the vibe of the new place, right across from the Hawaii Theatre, but it might be accurate to describe it as “J.J. Dolan’s is growing up a bit,” he said with a chuckle.

So, it won’t be a white-tablecloth restaurant that puts 50 ingredients on an appetizer plate? The idea made Niebuhr cringe audibly over the phone.

“With a pizza, if you do more than four, you’re killing it,” he said.

The former Du Vin space is about “75 yards” from J.J. Dolan’s, Dolan said.

Were the new restaurant going to be Irish or otherwise Celtic and not Mediterranean in concept, it would fill in another puka in the so-called “Irish beltway” of pubs in the downtown area.

Brasserie Du Vin, opened in 2007 by restaurateur David Stewart, closed at the end of January after he was unable to reach acceptable lease terms with the landlord, the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 675. The union has offices at 1109 Bethel St., about 36 feet away from the former Du Vin space.

“They were very agreeable with us,” Dolan said.

Niebuhr described the vacant space as “an unpolished jewel … in the crown of the whole Arts District.”

This will be the partners’ third time renovating and building out a space, and this will be their largest by far, at almost 3,800 square feet.

The first was their highly popular pizza place, which is roughly 2,400 square feet.

Then, Dolan and Niebuhr, along with their restaurant industry mentor Don Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bar & Grill, bought Ferguson’s Pub from Lillian Ferguson, widow of founder John Ferguson, who died in 2011.

The trio renovated the 729-square-foot pub and reopened it in 2012 as a bar and restaurant serving food from late morning into the evening.

Ferguson’s is in the historic Dillingham Transportation Building on Bishop Street, the former home of many a local business including Territorial Tavern and the old 98 Rock radio station. “There’s a history of fun and frivolity down there,” Niebuhr said.

Given the connection the trio had with Ferguson’s namesake owner over the years, the renovation was more of a personal undertaking than a business transaction. They wanted to “turn the neighborhood joint into something incredible, as a tribute that John himself would be proud to be a part of,” Niebuhr said. The restaurant’s menu is limited, but given the partners’ nearby kitchen resources, many a private party, for as few as 40 to as many as 350, has been catered at Ferguson’s since it reopened in 2012.

But back to the new place.

The ink is barely dry on the lease and related documents, so there is no thought to trying to open the new restaurant before the end of this year, Dolan said.

“There’s construction, a liquor license” and all the other aspects that go into opening a new restaurant. “It’s very early,” Dolan said.

Niebuhr then said something not at all shocking.

“I think if everything goes great with permitting, maybe early March. We’re hoping for St. Patrick’s Day.”

Because nothing says “Italian” like St. Paddy’s, he laughed.

Reach Erika Engle at 529-4303,, or on Twitter as @erikaengle.


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