“Here, try this one; it’s a new Israeli beer I’m importing,” Stanley Salas grins knowingly as he hands a new customer an exotically labeled bottle of Goldstar. Salas’ eyes light up as he articulates what is clearly one of his key delights in life – exposing people to new beers.
Unlike many, Salas has been able to transform this pleasure into a full-blown ambition with the launch of his new Stan’s Irish Pub, in the southeastern San José district of Zapote.
And come Saint Patrick’s Day tomorrow, Salas will be in his element.
As the proprietor of one of the few Irish pubs in San José, Salas looks forward to welcoming a large crowd for the occasion and is planning on installing two or three extra beer stations. A two-for-one special on Guinness, the traditional Irish stout, will be offered, among other specials.
“We’re having green carnations as decorations and are also going to make a green beer for the occasion,” Salas says.
The pub always has Guinness on special for ¢1,200 ($2.30) plus tax, and happy hour specials from 5-7 p.m.
Salas has gone to great pains to create a family-friendly environment in his pub.With various nonsmoking sections, outside terraces with protected street views, swivel chairs, wheelchair ramps, strategically placed TV screens, chess sets and a focus on the restaurant, he hopes to draw a variety of customers.
“We’re still finding that niche,” he says. “I want to focus on food, good beers and wine, not so much hard alcohol – it’s a family place.”
“Most customers don’t come here to get very drunk; they have three or four beers and leave happy,” adds Salas, 42. “When they come here, they have something different from other bars. I never push different beers on people; I simply expose them to what we have.”
His extensive range of imports is indeed impressive. At present, Stan’s stocks nearly 63 kinds of beer, and is expanding. With everything from Guinness and Costa Rican Imperial and Pilsen to European Hoegaarden and Leffe, Mexican Tecate and Israeli Goldstar, there is more than enough to suit every palate.
His delight in educating customers about different beers might stem from his own international experience, having lived in a total of 36 countries. The Costa Rican served in the U.S. Special Forces for 23 years, and the pub’s logo shows Salas wearing a green beret.
“My daughter took the photo … it was my last day in the service,” he explains nostalgically.
Asked about establishing an Irish pub in San José and the extent of Costa Rican beer culture, Salas replies with a cheeky grin, “Well, let’s just say I’m not selling too many Pilsens and Imperials.”
The pub is slowly drawing a regular clientele as it becomes better known in the San José area.
“We get a lot of people from the local area for the lunch special (usually a $3 meal including a natural fruit drink), from the businesses and universities in the area,” Salas says, adding with a chuckle,“Actually, there is a set of Gringo twins who come in regularly for hamburgers and have claimed a certain spot on the terrace as their own.”
Regular customer Robin Blakeman says he can’t get enough of the relaxed atmosphere.
“It’s in a handy location, I like the staff, I like the beer, and Stan’s a good friend,” he says.“I don’t mind supporting a new business in the area, and the ceviche is wonderful.”
The bar also serves coffee and delicious pastries made by “Miss Farah” next door.
“The ladies love to come for café and pastries on the terrace in the afternoons,” Salas says.
Established in an historic house and decked out in green, Stan’s is complete with the expected dark wood bar, nooks, crannies and stone walls that complete any traditional Irish bar. Built in the mid-1940s, the house is of historic significance, being one of the oldest houses in Zapote. Salas has created a window into the wall next to the bar to display its unique construction of bamboo, adobe, tile and wood. On the opposite wall lies a shrine to past tenant and well-known Guanacaste poet Jose Ramírez Saizar.
“He was married something like 12 times,” Salas says about the poet. “My uncle was godfather to two of his children.”
Famous for writing the “Himno a la Anexión del Guanacaste” many Costa Ricans can recall from their schools days, Ramírez’s memory is present in the pub. With a biography written by his daughter, mounted and framed on the wall along with other memorabilia, he will not be soon forgotten. After Ramírez, the house was occupied by 1970s radio station Stereo Azul, before Salas decided to create his pub.
Stan’s Irish Pub is in Zapote, 125 meters west of Casa Presidencial. For information, call 253-4360.