Clancy’s Tavern and Whisky House officially opened yesterday. It was a soft opening, with a grand opening planned for sometime in June. Only it wasn’t very soft. It started when co-owner Danny Clancy opened the doors and discovered that a line to one of the taps had come loose and beer was spewing in every direction. That cleaned up, the point of sale system wouldn’t work. A technician straightened that out and the doors opened at 11:00 AM.
Still, soft openings serve the purpose of getting the kinks worked out before most people know a business is open. The idea is a few customers trickle in and test the system on a small scale. The problem is that word got out in a large way. Before 5:00 the crowd was large. By 6:30 people were waiting for a place to sit. I think opening day may have been a messy success.
It’s a little strange when you first enter the tavern, if you remember buying glasses in that location. My wife bought a pair there when we first moved to downtown. The current economics of downtown dictated a change, however and Clancy’s Optical became Clancy’s Tavern. There are two locations of Clancy’s optical further to the west, but the downtown store simply didn’t generate enough return to sustain itself. While some of us regret any step away from being a full-service downtown with all the necessities a larger city might have, it is the current reality.
I sat at the bar with Mr. Clancy before the crowd got quite so big and he talked about the plans for the pub. The menu, he explained, is a temporary one, though many of the items will likely remain. Chefs are being hired and, once on board, will help determine the contents of the new menu. The dishes will retain and Irish flair, with perhaps a modern twist.
The same can be said of the Pub. Mr. Clancy explained that he and his old friend and partner, Josh Turbyville, wanted to have an urban Irish pub feel with a lighter atmosphere. The goal is to make it welcoming to everyone while maintaining a level of sophistication. He pointed out that the windows lining the entire space make it a perfect place to watch people passing along the sidewalks.
The initial hours are planned to be 11:00 AM to 2:00 AM which, as Mr. Clancy said, “Makes for a long day.” I suggested that given the addition of deserts or breakfast-type fare and an excellent coffee, it could fill a niche that no one else has covered. Where can you find that combination after 10:00 PM in downtown? After midnight?
The temporary menu, displayed here, includes sandwiches, appetizers, pizza and fish and chips. Flour Head, the bakery arm of Tomato Head contributes to the menu by supplying all the pizza dough as well as the bread for the sandwiches. I’m also pretty happy that the humus is the Tomato Head brand.
Sixteen beers populate the taps and more are available by the bottle. Murphy’s Irish Stout and Guinness along with Saw Work’s Pale Ale are among the beers. The limited wine selection should be expanded, soon and coffee is available. Obviously, a full range of Irish whiskeys sit behind the bar which is manned by J.C., formerly of Boyd’s and a great guy to talk to over whatever you happen to be drinking.
The bar is rich with beautiful woodwork built and installed by Danny Clancy’s brother, Art Clancy, of Clancy Custom Woodworking. The beams along the roof are something to see and the bar was custom built from heart pine harvested from the Taylor Lofts building just a block down the street. Danny was told the wood is over two-hundred years old. The brick columns inside the bar are also constructed from old, recycled materials.
A larger stage sits in the rear of the bar and a small stage is situated in the front. Plans include live music with an Irish flavor, if not traditional Irish music. Bluegrass is also a possibility, with the front stage likely about the right size for a singer-songwriter or two people. If any of you play music that fits that description and would like a shot at playing there, I suspect they wouldn’t mind you dropping in and pitching your act.
Urban Woman, myself and two friends came back about forty-five minutes after I left the interview and found a large crowd growing larger. I’m not sure how they could have anticipated being mobbed as soon as they opened the doors, but that’s what happened. Naturally, everything wasn’t perfect on the first night, particularly given the number of customers. There was a bit of confusion as to who had our table until Nicole stepped up and took care of us. The dishes aren’t in, yet, so baskets took their place. Minor things for a first night.
We enjoyed the deviled eggs and wings for appetizers. The eggs were so good (a piece of bacon was inserted – and what food isn’t made better with bacon?) that one of our party who hadn’t eaten eggs in years, ate more than one and declared eggs her new favorite food. Be warned with the wings: If you order the “hot” wings, get ready, they are very hot. That comes from a person who loves spicy foods.
For our entrees we had the turkey sandwich, the PB and J (that Pimento cheese, bacon and jalapeno) and the fish and chips. Everybody was pleased with their selection. I had the fish and chips and had no complaints. Prices are reasonable. We buy more the first time we try a restaurant, but we could have eaten for around $30 if we ate as we normally eat.
So what happens next? It appears the restaurant is destined to become a success. If a crowd has built to drink before 5:00 on your first day, it’s pretty likely to grow from there. If a place is packed with no promotion on it’s first day to the point that people are waiting for a table, that’s a pretty good sign. And when 1700 people file out of the Tennessee Theater, which sits next door, after a performance looking for a place to continue the evening, it seems extremely likely they won’t walk far.
So try it out, welcome them to the neighborhood, and let me know what you think. I’m glad it’s there and I know we’ll be back. Maybe I’ll see you there.