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Hanafin opens Irish-and-more bar Forty Thieves in Groton

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Groton — Diarm Hanafin had a few things going for him to create hype and build anticipation for his new bar in the City of Groton.

Many likely drove by the building at 171 Bridge St. in recent months and wondered what was going on at the spot, next to Norm's Diner, that had been vacant for so many years. Many recognize the Hanafin name from the Irish pub that Diarm and his father, Diarmuid, operated in New London from 2005 to 2017. And the younger Hanafin, 35, has been posting periodic updates on Facebook since December.

Now, Forty Thieves is finally open.

The bar, named for an Irish gang that was active in New York City in the 19th century, opened on Sept. 13. There will be a grand opening celebration on Saturday, featuring music from the State Street Saints throughout the day and a catered buffet.

Hanafin — a Fitch High School graduate who was born in Ireland, and lived there until he was 4 or 5 — also works as a DJ and was doing that after Hanafin's closed. But he said the concept for Forty Thieves was one he and partner Donny Holloway had been tossing around for a while.

He first looked at the Bridge Street spot nearly two years ago, but it was the dead of winter and there was just so much work to be done. But last September, he felt more inspired.

Hanafin said the location appealed to him because of its access to Interstate 95 and to Electric Boat. So he went in, gutted the place and took out 10 dumpsters' worth of materials.

In designing the interior, Hanafin didn't want to have the kind of bar that just hangs up a neon Bud Light sign. Rather, he thinks the décor — some of which is left over from Hanafin's — makes it "feel like a movie set."

To the right of the door is a bookcase stacked with old encyclopedias and copies of Reader's Digest, which has a hidden door that goes into a speakeasy-style "secret little bar." Hanafin said Thursday that carpenters were wrapping up work on that area and it would be open on Saturday.

On the other side of the bar is a room with two pool tables. In between is a room with the main bar, wooden tables and chairs that came from Ireland, a stage for live music, TVs, an old phone booth and a fireplace.

Behind the bar are lockers that people will be able to rent for $200 annually to store a bottle of alcohol, mimicking the concept of bottle service at clubs.

The selections Hanafin said were on tap Thursday indicate the bar will have something for everyone, reflecting a mix of Irish, domestic and local beers: Guinness, Smithwick's, Dogs & Boats from Beer'd Brewing Company, Lil Heaven Session IPA from Two Roads, Sam Adams Oktoberfest, Bud Light and Yuengling.

Hanafin wants to focus not only on beer but also on cocktails, and said the bar will offer drinks like Old Fashioneds, Manhattans and martinis.

Behind the bar is a mirror painted with the logo local artist Cam Bortz designed, featuring two pistols crossed under an emerald-green hat. Hanafin said Forty Thieves will have a brass stamp that stamps ice cubes with the logo of the bar, and the ability to print the logo atop a drink using edible ink and rice paper.

Hanafin hopes to have the kitchen open in a few weeks; he plans to offer Irish and English specialties such as shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, and Guinness stew, along with other comfort food and bar bites.

He said he doesn't want to limit the bar to just being an Irish pub, that there will be music and foods that aren't Irish.

The bar is open from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and closed Mondays.

e.moser@theday.com

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