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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Sep. 5, 200612:00 PM EST

New proprietors for London Bridge

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

After four years of pulling pints and passing fish and chips and bangers and mash across the bar, Martin and Ginger Readion decided it was time for new proprietors to take over at the London Bridge pub.

The Readions opened the doors for the first time in 2002. They soon became two of Downtown’s most colorful characters and the pub became a popular destination for lunch, happy hour and late night libations for locals.

Paul and Karen Nigara and their partner, Bob Moffitt, got the keys to the landmark watering hole at the corner of Ocean and Adams streets on Aug. 17. The trio’s diverse business experience should be their biggest asset, said Paul Nigara.

“We have a lot of experience in different kinds of businesses. We’ve managed bars and restaurants. We’ve also managed real estate, but our background is in finance,” he said.

Nigara and his wife had visited north Florida many times, as had Moffitt. They were impressed with Jacksonville and especially enjoyed Downtown.

“When we were first interested in buying a business, we were down here on a visit and went to see B. B. King at the Florida Theatre. It was a great show and a great environment. We were very impressed,” he said.

When Nigara speaks, it’s clear that he’s from Brooklyn, not Great Britain. He said that several factors played into the group’s decision to buy the pub.

“You can tell from my accent that I’m a city boy at heart. I really like a downtown environment,” said Nigara. “Then there is the St. Johns River. It’s beautiful and we all like boating. We like being near the waterfront. It’s a great atmosphere.”

He also said that Downtown’s ongoing revitalization was part of the attraction.

“We’re very excited about that and we want to fit right in to it. We thought it would be a good place to do business and we want to be good business neighbors,” said Nigara.

Taking over an established business usually means inheriting a built-in customer base. Nigara said that the pub’s proximity to The Plaza, 11 E. and The Carling was apparent from the first day.

“I have already gotten to know some of the regulars,” he said. “We feel that we’re in a neighborhood and that we’re a neighborhood pub. As more people move Downtown, that will mean more potential customers for us.”

Nigara pointed out that the regulars don’t need to worry about losing the atmosphere at what has become for many a home away from home. While there will be some noticeable improvements, the pub’s ambience will be preserved.

“The London Bridge is going to remain the London Bridge,” said Nigara. “We’re going to make changes to upgrade the infrastructure and we’re sprucing up the place. We’re painting and doing ceiling work. We’re also installing new tile and we’ve made some improvements in the kitchen, but we’re not going to turn it into a fern bar.”

The major improvement to the pub will be a new air-conditioning system, but that won’t happen this year.

“Believe me, we’ve already heard about the air conditioning and that is a goal,” said Nigara. “We knew when we were looking at the business that it’s too hot in here, but we’re going to work on it. It’s a big capital investment.”

He added that, like their patrons, he and his partners are looking forward to the upcoming cooler months of the year.

“That will give us a little breathing room. As far as the air conditioning is concerned, that will be a project for next spring – after we put some money in the bank,” said Nigara.

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