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November 23, 2013

Claddagh sale is pending

LAWRENCE — Twenty-one years after it opened in a cavernous space on Canal Street at a time when the city’s Irish population was still sizable if declining, the Claddagh Pub — which grew to become an Irish icon in the Merrimack Valley — is being sold.

Both buyers are Dominicans but plan to continue operating the Claddagh as an Irish restaurant, bar and catering hall, adding a twist to the ethnic shift from European to Latino that began transforming the city’s neighborhoods and downtown about 50 years ago.

The buyers, Abel Ceballo and Rolando Estrella, could not be reached, but the broker handling the sale said they plan to keep the name and are planning few changes.

“It’s going to stay the same way,” said the broker, Eddie Perez. “They have no interest in changing anything.”

Ceballo and Estrella also plan on continuing many of the fund-raisers and special events the Claddagh produced or hosted, Perez said, including the 4-mile road race it sponsored in the city every spring. The race this year drew 996 runners.

Perez said both Ceballo, 47, and Estrella, 25, live in Lawrence, but said he knew little of their background except that Ceballo has owned other businesses.

The two applied to the Lawrence Licensing Board in October to take over the Claddagh’s liquor license. The state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission would have a final say.

Ceballo and Estrella would pay $250,000 for the Claddagh and $66,000 a year in rent to occupy the ground floor restaurant and bar and the second floor catering hall, according to documents in their file with the Licensing Board. In all, the Claddagh is 18,000 square feet and has a capacity of 600 people.

If Ceballo and Estrella can get the liquor license and obtain financing, their lease would begin Jan. 1 and run to 2019.

Brian Farrell, one of four partners who own the Claddagh, said the decision to sell was economic. He called it “bittersweet.”

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