O’Toole’s fits snugly into New Haven pub scene

Source: Josh Fields, irishemigrant.com

Tuesday, 20th Sept, 2011

O’Toole’s Irish Pub and Restaurant brings a fresh Irish look to downtown New Haven, having opened on September 15. Dublin-born Colin O’Toole and Tipperary man Damian Cashman, two recently sworn-in U.S. citizens who have overseen the project from its inception, are no strangers to the pub trade.

Damian Cashman and Colin O'Toole enjoy a pint while taking a break from their grand opening preparations.

Damian Cashman and Colin O’Toole will open O’Toole’s Irish Pub in New Haven this week. O’Toole, just 26 years old, has been in the bar business locally for 10 years, having started as a bus boy for the Hamden Playwright and then worked at Anna Liffey’s before eventually becoming a manager at Christy’s in New Haven.

Cashman (34) is the former manager of the New Haven Playwright and current owner of Keys to the City and Sergeant Pepper’s Night Club at LongWharf’s Terminal 110.

Staff include Mikie Beirne from Leitrim, the new pub’s bar manager, and Colin’s girlfriend Selina Moylan of Co. Clare, a former University of New Haven soccer standout and Irish international.

Surrounded by a top class team now, neither were O’Toole and Cashman alone in building the pub, with Colin’s father Sean playing a vital role.

“We couldn’t have done this project without my dad,” O’Toole said. ”He not only worked on the renovations but literally designed the floor plan on a napkin at his kitchen table. The flow of the place is brilliant.”

One part of this flow which customers can look forward to is O’Toole’s hand-crafted snugs, six private booths painstakingly put together by a local carpenter from Co. Westmeath, which will offer an intimate setting for those looking for a quiet drink.

“Traditionally, Irish snugs served as hideaways where Guinness-struck lovers, respectable ladies or the local constabulary could meet for private conversation,” O’Toole says of the origins of these comfortable caverns.

Each snug in the new bar has a theme; for example, one recognizes veterans who would previously have walked through the doors of the building to enlist in the military, back when it was used as a recruiting center for the Army’s ROTC program. Indeed, after 9/11, aged just 16, the young O’Toole went to enlist in the program against his mother’s wishes, but was eventually denied.

“You realize that your mother nearly killed you over this building!” his father recalled during construction. Fittingly, a fundraiser for wounded veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq is in the pipeline at the venue.

Past the snug area is the bar, a fifty foot work of art crafted from the rafters of an old Dublin church. The 5,000 square foot space also includes a banquet room and performance stage for live music, with an additional 1,000 square feet of outdoor seating in a red-bricked courtyard, next to the pub’s side entrance.

Thirsty patrons can enjoy a plentiful assortment of beers, both bottled and on tap. On the food front expect traditional Irish cuisine mixed with the best of France; chef Christopher Vasas, who studied under renowned French chef Jean George in Manhattan, is bringing the best of both worlds to O’Toole’s. Any Irish staples he’s unsure of, “I’ll just ask the staff here to ask their grandmothers for the recipe!” he laughs.

O’Toole’s is located at 157 Orange Street, downtown New Haven.

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