VOL. 132 | NO. 222 | Wednesday, November 8, 2017
By Andy Meek
Downtown’s Irish pub The Brass Door is quietly reintroducing itself this month after closing earlier this year, though the patrons who showed up this week for lunch likely didn’t notice much of a change in the concept.
The lion’s share of what’s been done in the interim has been behind the scenes with help from The Majestic Grille owners Patrick and Deni Reilly, who also have a restaurant consulting enterprise. The Reillys revamped the restaurant at Beale Street Landing this summer into The Front Porch.
The difference between that and their second project – bringing their consulting expertise to The Brass Door, which opened in 2011 – is that their work here is mostly behind the scenes. In what Patrick describes as helping make sure a solid “operational infrastructure” is in place.
(From left to right) Scott Crosby, owner of The Brass Door, Seamus Loftus, owner of The Brass Door, Patrick Reilly, owner of Majestic Hospitality Group, Deni Reilly, owner of Majestic Hospitality Group, Lisa Gradinger, Majestic Hospitality Group, Jennifer Armstrong, Majestic Hospitality Group, and Chris Backey, general manager of The Brass Door. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
“What we bring is an operational framework,” he said. “So, we have systems in place –operational systems in place. Managers and accountants and chefs and cooks. We have, like, an infrastructure of people who’ve been around a long time. And what we’ve learned over the years at The Majestic is you need to have an infrastructure to create an operation. You can’t just have a really good idea.”
Speaking of ideas, he and Deni both stress that they’ve not at all come in to scrub the concept or make any sweeping change along those lines. The Brass Door will remain, essentially, what it’s been: a traditional Irish pub. The revamp has put a new menu in place, although many of the previous menu’s dishes will remain.
There will eventually be brunch specials on the weekend and a late-night menu in the bar. Patrick said the ambition is also “to curate one of the best Irish whiskey selections in the city.”
All of it, in other words, will be grace notes that try to amplify, not change, what Deni said the concept will remain: “A pub that’s really about coming in and feeling like you’re at home.”
For Loftus, one of The Brass Door’s owners along with Scott and Meg Crosby, Memphis has always been a certain kind of home. Loftus comes from a small Irish fishing village called Ballina in County Mayo, and as he explained it to The Daily News back when he was first opening the pub – with a beer in his hand behind the bar on the main floor – that he was aware of Memphis and knew where it was before he ever knew where London was.
It’s a heritage, by the way, he shares with Patrick Reilly, who hails from Dublin.
The Brass Door is in a good place today, Loftus says. It’s carved out an identity. It has a following. The Reillys are on board, he said, to help bring a consistency and a rigor behind the scenes that can take it to the next level.
Inside the newly rejuvenated Brass Door, an Irish pub in Downtown Memphis. Patrick and Deni Reilly, co-owners of The Majestic Grille, have started a restaurant consulting business, and The Brass Door is the second restaurant they’ve worked with. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
“It’s an emotional piece for me,” Loftus said. “It’s tricky. It’s a tricky thing when somebody comes in and says I want you to do this. That’s tricky. And it took a minute. And then over the course of time – like last night, we had a very interesting meeting, very positive, about what we’re going to do for the pub.
“Over time, Scott Crosby and myself and our families, we’ve managed to make it on some level an integral part of the city. People like it, and they enjoy the vibe. And on a good night, it’s a great pub. It’s got to be a great pub every night. I think the Door means something to the city, and I think it can go on to mean an awful lot more. That’s what I’m looking for. You can get a beer anywhere, right? What we can offer is meaning.
“And if we can back that up with great food and consistency of service and the right approach to the work, then we conquer that mission.”