Tir Na nOg to close, Bida Manda owners to take over space

A monthly beer and hymns gathering at Tir Na Nog on in 2014. The downtown Raleigh Irish pub is closing after 18 years.
A monthly beer and hymns gathering at Tir Na Nog on in 2014. The downtown Raleigh Irish pub is closing after 18 years.

After 18 years, Tir Na nOg owner Pete Pagano has decided to close the downtown Raleigh Irish pub and lease it to his neighbors for their new restaurant and brewery.

“It’s exciting, and it’s sad,” Pagano said Monday night a few hours after telling his staff that Tir Na nOg would close Nov. 22.

Pagano has owned the restaurant for almost 11 years. He cited his 20-month-old son and 4-year-old daughter as a reason for moving on. “I’ve got two small children,” he said. “Being in the restaurant industry, it’s tough.” Pagano said he will focus on his software company, Beverage IO, which tries to find software solutions to restaurant challenges.

Bida Manda co-owner Vansana Nolintha said he and brewer Patrick Woodson hope to open Plenty next summer. They will convert the 8,000-square-foot Irish pub into a brewery, dim sum restaurant, florist shop and bookstore. Nolintha said they also hope to sign a lease on a brewery production space on Bloodworth Street soon.

About the diverse concept, Nolintha said Monday morning: “There was that moment of doubt. But if you know me, it didn’t last long.”

The Irish pub has been a community anchor on downtown Raleigh’s Moore Square, regularly hosting Irish music, dancing and tin whistle classes as well as local bands, a monthly beer and hymns event and a popular weekly running club.

Finding a tenant that will continue to create a sense of community on Moore Square was key, Pagano said. “I fought for this side of town for years,” he said. “I wanted something that was locally-owned and was a big asset to the community.”

About Nolintha, Pagano said, “I have always really respected Van. He does what he does for the right reasons. He has a good vision of where he’s going.”

Nolintha said he wants Plenty to expand what he and his sister, Vanvisa, have built at Bida Manda, the area’s only Laotian restaurant, and continue what Pagano perfected at Tir Na nOg.

“To extend our commitment further in the same neighborhood, the same community, is really thrilling,” Nolintha said.

Here are some details that Nolintha shared: the brewery will specialize in Belgian-style beers and focus on pairing those beers with food; the restaurant will offer dim sum and Chinese dishes; and the space also will include a floral shop and bookstore, which he hopes will highlight some Raleigh residents’ favorite books. A communal area will allow customers at all four concepts to interact.

“When an idea is open ended, it can be anything,” Nolintha said.

Nolintha is tapping into the expertise of friends and employees to create the new concept. Nolintha and Patrick Woodson, the son of N.C. State University chancellor Randy Woodson, connected because Woodson, an avid home brewer, had traveled in Laos after serving as a Peace Corp volunteer in Uganda. Nolintha is asking Jordan Hester, Bida Manda’s bar manager, and Whitney Wilson, Bida Manda’s manager, who both have related degrees, to oversee the bookstore. Deana Nguyen, who has worked at Bida Manda since it opened, will be the floral artist.

Andrea Weigl: 919-829-4848, @andreaweigl