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VOL. 127 | NO. 52 | Thursday, March 15, 2012

Brass Door Looks to Bring True Irish to St. Paddy’s Day

By Aisling Maki

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Downtown Irish pub The Brass Door is gearing up to celebrate its first St. Patrick’s Day with live music, food and drink specials, and plenty of craic – an Irish term for having a great time.

“There’s a tremendous amount of energy for it at the moment,” said Seamus Loftus, managing partner of The Brass Door, which opened at 152 Madison Ave. in August.

In addition to every staff member, Loftus has enlisted the help of friends to pull off a celebration that’s expected to exceed the roughly 800 people who, throughout the course of the day, attended the pub’s grand opening celebration last summer.

“We’re hoping, with St. Patrick’s Day on a Saturday, that we’ll top that this year,” said Loftus. “We’re excited about that.”

The pub’s neighboring alley will be closed off, with a stage set up for live music. Eight bands are scheduled to play, including Memphis-based Big Betsy, whom Loftus calls “a wonderful Irish experience.”

“They’re local musicians who play The Pogues and Flogging Molly and all kinds of stuff,” he said. “They’re pretty raucous.”

Both the upstairs and downstairs bars will be open for business, and drink specials, including a corn beef and cabbage plate and $5 fish and chips and burgers and chips, will be offered throughout the day.

And Loftus says the kids won’t be left out; pint-sized children’s meals such as fish and chips will be available, as well.

He and business partner Meg Crosby decided early on that The Brass Door would welcome families, as is customary in Ireland, where smoking in pubs was banished about eight years ago.

“It’s an odd thing when you open a pub to go completely non-smoking,” Loftus said. “In that way, I feel that we’re very much a leader. We took a very brave step because a lot of people wouldn’t do it. We’re a family pub. We always wanted to be a place where families could gather, which is how it ought to be. … It’s more honoring our commitment to being truly an Irish pub.”

Loftus says St. Patrick’s Day revelry in the U.S. is a markedly different experience from the sacred feel of the day back home in his native County Mayo, in the West of Ireland.

“One of the things that shouldn’t be lost is that it’s a religious festival, so there would always be mass in the morning, followed by a parade,” Loftus said. “It really wasn’t a heavy drinking day. It was more a religious observance than anything else. It’s a different experience.”

Loftus’ mother sometimes made the pilgrimage to nearby Croagh Patrick, a mountain believed to have been the site of a 40-day fast by the fifth-century saint, as well as the place where he’s said to have banished all snakes from the Emerald Isle.

“My mother climbed nine times in her bare feet,” Loftus said.

Loftus said he hopes to have his parish priest from Downtown’s St. Patrick’s Catholic Church bless the pub on St. Patrick’s Day, as he did on its opening day.

Loftus said that although he’ll still attend mass in the morning and treat the holiday as a holy one in some respects, he welcomes what Americans have added to the celebration.

“This wonderful new culture decided a somewhat sterile and stodgy religious holiday ought to be turned into a big festival,” Loftus said. “There’s a correlation in an odd way, because before Patrick the Irish were pagans, and they celebrated every good event with a big party. So, really America kind of peeled the onion a little bit. It’s really lovely. I think the American experience is a more joyful one. In Ireland, they’re not celebrating being Irish because they’re Irish, so you’d feel kind of odd about celebrating it. In this country, it’s a celebration – a real reconnection to your roots, and it’s been adopted by everyone.”

Loftus said he believes the Irish people’s zest for life and raw, emotional honesty is what continues to attract people around the world to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and to Irish culture in general.

“In Ireland we have the expression: ‘Ceol, Caint agus Craic’ (Gaelic for music, conversation and having fun). What the Irish generally bring to the table is that sense of fun. It’s very hard to be around any Irish community and not have an awful lot of fun. It’s raucous, and we’re kind of a raw people, kind of true to ourselves emotionally in a way that a lot of people aren’t. To be true to yourself emotionally is to embrace happiness. I think that’s the real essence of it. You’re going to end off dead, so you might as well have fun while you’re here.”

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