Florida Keys News
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Last call for Irish pub
Finnegan's closing June 19 as owner sells

Finnegan's Wake Irish Pub, which since 1999 has served as the hub of Key West's annual St. Patrick's Day bash, will close for business June 19.

Pub owner Jean Star Dillon has sold the property, 320 Grinnell St., which she and her husband bought for $850,000 in October 1999, according to a letter to employees obtained by The Citizen.

Listed for $2.1 million, the property is under contract to a seller, according to real estate broker Curtis Skomp, who wouldn't disclose any details Monday, saying the deal wasn't finalized.

Skomp said the property has been on the market for about six months.

But the letter to employees dated Sunday says their jobs will end June 19, and the first day workers will qualify for unemployment benefits is June 20.

"Last call will be at 11:40 p.m.," wrote Jean Star Dillon. "The new owner will be renovating the building, so [it] will be closed until that is completed. Anyone interested in reapplying for his/her job should leave contact information with us to pass on to the new owner."

Dillon said she is meeting with the buyers today but wouldn't answer additional questions.

"I don't have any info on what they're doing," she said of the incoming owners' plans.

From now until June 19, the pub will close at midnight sharp instead of the usual 4 a.m., the letter said.

"Thanks to all of you for your hard work and best of luck in the future," Dillon wrote.

Several locals said they would miss the pub for its food, drink and welcoming vibe.

"I'm disappointed, but I know things change," said Trice Denny, a spokeswoman for the Navy in Key West who frequents Finnegan's. "It's the staff that kept me and my friends coming back time and again."

Taking its name from a ballad dating back to the 1850s, Finnegan's Wake is known for its lively entertainment schedule -- Celtic musicians, trivia contests, beer brunches, pro sports on the television screens, and a menu featuring classic Irish fare such as bangers and mash, corned beef and shepherd's pie.

The pub's website includes the story of Finnegan's Wake, in which a heavy-drinking Irishman falls off a ladder and dies but is roused by whiskey spilled on his face during his wake.

James Joyce's 1939 novel "Finnegans Wake" dropped the apostrophe and includes the corpse-brought-back-to-life-through-liquor tale, but with its experimental structure that includes its own language is now known as one of the most difficult works in the English language to get through.

One quotation from the novel is: "bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunn-trovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!"

But in addition to the Guinness on tap, Irish whiskeys and a dark interior filled with refinished wood, the corner pub also serves as a community gathering place.

The pub also has hosted local political forums over the years, including a heated one in 2012 when Andy Griffiths faced several competitors for his seat on the Monroe County School Board, which he won.

Finnegan's has two indoor dining rooms and an outside covered patio space. It is licensed with the city for 174 seats, according to the real estate listing that calls the business a "profitable, charming, popular Irish pub," that's "very desirable for the upscale restaurateur."

The building has two apartments on the second floor, two bars and a "high volume" kitchen, reads the listing, which promises a lucrative location, stating:

"Solid income from restaurant will pay for purchase of business/real estate."

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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