The “build it and they will come” line might not work for everyone in today’s economic world, but for the owners of the Irish Embassy Pub, it’s the gospel truth.
Opened in 2008 as a traditional Irish pub and meeting place, the popular bar and restaurant at the corner of Ninth Street and Main Avenue has evolved into a downtown hot spot for the college crowd. That left co-owners Jerry Hembury, Mike Graham and Phil Brennan with an enviable dilemma.
“We wanted to keep what we’ve got going and look out for the younger crowd without pushing anyone out,” Brennan said.
The solution, known as the Underground, was one that would please the “grow or die” crowd. The owners simply annexed an adjacent space next door (it was last occupied by the Speedy Needle) and opened a new nightclub and music venue to handle the overflow. Now, the kids have a place to party on weekends – the capacity is about 160 – and the Embassy’s downstairs Ambassador Lounge, with its comfortable couches and big-screen TVs, again is a safe haven for a more subdued clientele.
“A pub’s about a place where people can come and have fun, and it’s open to every demographic,” Brennan said.
“We have a good relationship with the college and the coaches and people who run things up there, and we all want somewhere that’s safe for the kids to be able to dance and have fun.”
It may seem odd for an authentic Irish pub to name a venue after London’s subway system, but things have been warming lately between the Brits and their traditional island foes in recent years. So this is nice. And the decor of the Underground emphasizes the name: Patrons must walk through a brick-walled tunnel adorned with graffiti and Underground logos to access the new bar.
Brennan said for now the Underground will be open only on Friday and Saturday nights save for special events. It opened Snowdown weekend with shows by local musicians D.L. Marble and Robby Overfield. Last weekend, there was house music, and DJ Wreck will spin Saturday. When there’s no DJ or live band playing, the Underground will play a piped-in mix of music.