When financial services expats are far from home in a foreign land, they tend to congregate in places where they can, for a brief time at least, be among their own kind. It’s hardly new, nor is it limited to English-speaking financial services executives. Churches, synagogues and mosques have long served the same purpose around the world.
But as we noted here last week, when the language, culture, customs, climate and even the food and drink are unfamiliar, sometimes in the extreme, a pint of Guinness, drunk slowly in a darkened, wood-paneled room – possibly decorated in shamrocks and frolicking cartoon leprechauns – can seem just what the doctor ordered.
This week, we nominate our choice for Best Classic Expat Pub in the Isle of Man.
Establishment: Bar George
Address: Hill Street
St George’s Chambers
Douglas Isle of Man IM1 1EF
Tel: +44 01624 617799
Spacious by the standards of Isle of Man bars, the BG is located in what used to be St George’s Church Hall, which explains why its décor, for its first 15 or so years as a bar, recalled that of, well, a church hall.
In fact, says manager Ian Stephens, before it was converted into a bar in the 1990s, it had been where the children of St George’s Church next door attended Sunday school.
Some locals still remember that the space now occupied by Bar George served as a temporary morgue in August 1973, after a flash fire at a vast, five-storey waterfront leisure centre known as Summerland killed some 50 people and seriously injured another 80.
New owners, said to be Isle of Man natives, took it over sometime in 2012 and completely renovated it – lowering the ceilings, and introducing booths, mirrors and a sophisticated, under-stated brown-and-tan colour scheme.
But even when it looked like the drafty former church hall that happened to serve alcoholic beverages that it was, Bar George was still hugely popular with the Isle of Man’s financial services community, manager Stephens and locals say. That’s because it’s located yards from the Isle of Man Treasury, the Island’s distinctive Parliament building, and the law offices of nearby Athol Street. “I’ve seen MHKs in there on a few occasions,” says one Manx financial services executive, referring to the Isle of Man’s House of Keys members, the island’s equivalent of MPs.
“It’s a common meeting place for business deals and off-the-record discussions, and personally I’ve made two job offers there.
“The recent make-over has improved the acoustics, as it used to be very noisy.”
Stephens says televised sports are one of the bar’s regular attractions, as they are in many expat pubs, with rugby matches rather than football Bar George’s biggest draw. It also holds many charity functions, often based around quiz nights.
The Isle of Man’s annual TT motorcycle races, by contrast, see an increase in business but not overly so, according to Stephens, as its location is out-of-the-way for TT-goers.
To see last week’s best classic expat pub, in Singapore, click here.
Next week: International Investment’s choice for best classic expat pub in Dubai.