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Ground Zero for Irish Crisis May Swap Lending for Lattes

Ground Zero for Irish Banking Crisis May Swap Lending for Lattes
The Dublin headquarters of Anglo Irish Bank Corp. have long been regarded as a symbol of a financial meltdown that led to a 67.5 billion international bailout for Ireland. Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

The Dublin headquarters of Anglo Irish Bank Corp., dubbed the world’s worst bank, may swap loans for lattes under a plan to turn the epicenter of Ireland’s financial crisis into a café.

The concrete and brick-faced office overlooking St. Stephen’s Green has been the site of angry demonstrations against irresponsible lenders and a government rescue of the bank that cost every Irish man, woman and child more than 6,500 euros ($8,850). Building owner Irish Life Group Ltd. has applied to convert the ground floor into a coffee shop, according to a filing to city authorities.

“We could have a lot of fun thinking of different names for the coffees,” Bobby Kerr, chairman of Insomnia, a coffee chain with over 60 stores across Ireland. “I’d ask how much is the rent and can I make a bid on it,” if permission is granted.

The offices have long been regarded as a symbol of a financial meltdown that led to a 67.5 billion international bailout for Ireland. When the bank’s signs were taken down in April 2011, the process was shown by national TV broadcaster RTE. The silvery lettering is now on display at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

Anglo Irish, renamed the Irish Banking Resolution Corporation, left the 3,493 square-foot (324 square meter) space in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the company. Eamon Gilmore, now deputy prime minister, in 2010 called the ill-fated lender the worst bank in the world as spiraling loan losses led to a 30 billion-euro bailout.

Bitter Coffee

“Hopefully it doesn’t make the coffee too bitter,” Simon Kelly, a developer and author of “Breakfast with Anglo,” said by telephone. Kelly and his family borrowed about 800 million euros from the bank before it collapsed, he said by telephone. They have since lost control of many of the assets that secured the loans.

Anglo Irish was planning to lease a new headquarters when it collapsed in 2009. The unfinished concrete skeleton in the city’s north docks, bought by the central bank last year, is another widely known symbol of Ireland’s financial crisis.

Irish Resolution Corp. employees still occupy two other floors of the building as well as part of the ground floor and the basement, as the lender moves toward closure in 2020.

Landlord Stephen Court Ltd., a unit of Irish Life, told planners in December that it wants to turn the space into a coffee shop.

Council officials last month told Irish Life to seek full planning approval for the change, according to documents published on its website. A coffee shop is one of a number of options being considered for the space, Irish Life spokesman Ray Gordon said.

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