Lillie's Bordello, late-night haunt of Ireland's glitterati, seeks new lover of plush Victoriana

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The Independent Online

The apex of celebrity nightlife in Ireland, where international and local stars mingle until the early hours, is about to change hands after a decade at the top of the elite social scene.

The apex of celebrity nightlife in Ireland, where international and local stars mingle until the early hours, is about to change hands after a decade at the top of the elite social scene.

Lillie's Bordello in Dublin's Grafton Street, the city's most talked-about nightclub, is on the market and may be sold this week.

Rarely out of the news, the club has become a symbol of conspicuous consumption in modern, prosperous Ireland, attracting fascination and envy in equal measure.

It enjoyed unrivalled prominence during the years of the "Celtic tiger" boom, but unlike many celebrity-based establishments, it has continued to prosper in the calmer economic climate of recent years. Its survival is regarded as a sign of a high disposable income and an appetite for the high life.

The Republic of Ireland is known as something of a haven for the rich and famous, with various celebs maintaining second homes in Dublin and elsewhere. There can be tax advantages in coming to Ireland, but it has long shed its disadvantaged image.

Lillie's, tricked out in the sumptuous decor of a high-class Victorian brothel, is named after the famed Victorian courtesan Lillie Langtry, mistress of the Prince of Wales.

The club provides Irish gossip columnists with copious material. Its celebrity visitors include Mick Jagger, Julia Roberts, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Tom Jones. Local notables reputedly include Bono of U2, Van Morrison, Liam Neeson, Patrick Kielty, the Corrs and Westlife. The rich and famous who enjoy the coveted platinum membership have a special entrance and their own bar.

Platinum membership cannot be applied for: it is given by the management. Entertainment has been provided by musicians such as the pianist Paul Harrington, who won the Eurovision song contest in 1994 for Ireland. To many, Lillie's is the pinnacle of celebrity, with Michael Flatley of Riverdance fame declaring: "I don't think I'll be alone in thinking that it is one of the greatest nightclubs in the world."

Drinks prices are high but not exorbitant in comparison with other late-night watering-holes: a glass of wine costs €7 (£4.85), a pint of Guinness just over €5.

With a price tag in the millions, the club attracted no bids at a recent auction. But a spokesperson for the firm handling the sale said: "We are negotiating with a number of interested parties and hope to bring it to a head by the week's end."

The club has had a number of minor brushes with the law, with criticism of the allegedly over-enthusiastic bouncers who have an important role in keeping celebrities away from the public. Last year, it was fined after guests were found on the premises well after closing time. A judge delivered a stern lecture: "Whoever the party was for, they are not above the law just because they are somebody who is famous or apparently famous."

But Lillie's has developed a winning formula that explains its longevity. Celebrities seem likely to continue revelling in its crimson carpets, mahogany and marble trimmings, and black velvet drapes.

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