McCabe’s: Downtown Bradenton’s Home of the Irish

Source: Tim W. McCann, bradenton.patch.com

Thursday, 8th Sept, 2011

An old Irish proverb says, “Keep your shop and your shop will keep you.”

The Irish-born Thomas Stynes certainly keeps his shop, and keeps it well.

McCabe's Irish Pub in downtown Bradenton. Credit Karyn Campbell

Stynes, owner of McCabe’s Irish Pub, 302 Old Main St., isn’t ready to kick back and relax even now that he’s realized his goal of opening a bar downtown. He’s frequently seen there, pouring pints of Guinness, clearing tables or chatting with patrons. And when he’s not at the bar, he’s on the lookout for treasures from his native Ireland to add to the bar’s rustic charm.

McCabe’s Irish Pub opened last spring to much buzz albeit with a bit of concern from its neighbors in the nearby senior living condominiums who worried about a bar so close to home. But from day one, McCabe’s made strides to be good neighbors: The bar has never allowed late-night rock bands or outdoor seating.

The excitement prior to its opening had as much to do with Stynes as it did a new bar downtown. A veteran of the bar business, Stynes built Rasher Tierney’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, 5106 14th St. W., from materials imported from his native Ireland. He grew a following in Bradenton. Prior to Rashers, he built Fidel Murphy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant on Grand Cayman Island, an Irish bar with a Caribbean flair.

Located at the corner of Old Main and Third Avenue, McCabe’s, named after Stynes’ grandmother, has come a long way since it opened just after St. Patrick’s Day (a holiday Stynes promises not to miss in 2012). The forest green wall behind the bar was mostly bare and the temporary tables in back were merely plywood and two-by-fours nailed together. Today, the tables are real, the walls decorated and shelves containing endless supplies of liquor bottles and other Irish trinkets share space with flat-screen televisions behind the stylish, mahogany bar.

There’s not much space to work with compared to Rashers or other pubs on Old Main Street, but McCabe’s takes advantage of every nook and cranny. A long, cushioned couch rests flush against the authentic 1920s brick wall in back. The couch is divided into semi-private sections by double-sided glass partitions filled with odds and ends.

“They say one man’s junk is another man’s antiques,” he said. “If I see something and I like it, I’ll get it, even if it’s not from Ireland. As long as it adds to the bar.”

Adorning the brick wall are Irish street signs and Irish quotations – neatly arranged and not overdone. Plans include adding to the bar’s rustic feel with cabinets with old-fashioned brass handles behind the bar and a creating a “snug area.” A snug area harkens back to late 19th Century Ireland where Irish public houses, or pubs, included small, cordoned-off sections for patrons seeking a bit of privacy or for women in an era when they typically didn’t visit pubs without a male companion.

There’s a pool table in back, a jukebox and a small area for live music. Late Friday and Saturday nights, the jukebox tends to play the popular rock, metal or club songs. If you’re seeking something closer to an Irish atmosphere, stop by earlier in the evening when the jukebox plays songs from Celtic folk/punk artists like Flogging Molly and The Pogues and Celtic rock bands like Dropkick Murphys.

The bar has live music at times but Stynes keeps it easy-listening folk or acoustic. Scottish guitarist/singer JJ Smith has played McCabe’s a few times (he returns Sept. 23). Celtic Clan, a Boston-area favorite, and Guinness, a band from Nova Scotia, have upcoming gigs.

And, of course, no review is complete without mentioning the alcohol supply. It’s a full liquor bar with plenty of Irish selections, an assortment of wine, and draft beers including Guinness, Kilkenny, Smithwick’s and Harp (All Irish) along with Carlsberg, Sam Adams, Yuengling and the Buds.

The bar doesn’t serve food so smoking is permitted.

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