The pub will be in the former location of Watson’s Piano Bar, 1307 25th Ave., which was sold to Irish Coast Pub owner Ben Kaufman last week. The move marks the return of another staple of pre-Katrina Gulfport nightlife after The E.O. Club re-opened in 2009. Kaufman says the new Irish Coast might look a little different than the original but the vibe is the same.
“What I’m trying to capture from the old place is the atmosphere,” he said. “That’s not from a dining perspective but the connection with the customer and our staff being on top of their game. We’re buying an existing business and everything’s not going to be shipped over from Ireland like it was, but I don’t think people are looking for that these days. It’s about taking care of people and that’s what we’re going to do. I think it will be accepted very well and there’s always going to be a sense of nostalgia. We’re going to try to throw some aspects of the old place in there though, and hopefully remind people of whatever it is they remember about it from the minute they walk in the doors.”
Kaufman has 16 years experience in the industry and opened the original Irish Coast Pub in November 2003. It was an immediate hit due in large part to a downtown area that was, at the time, “starving for what is going on now.” It quickly became a sought after venue for local musicians and he says the live music will be prominently featured in the new location. Hurricane Katrina gutted the original space on 15th Street where Salute’s Italian Restaurant now stands.
Kaufman evacuated to Illinois after the storm but returned to manage Coast nightclub at Beau Rivage in the summer of 2006. He moved to the Treasure Bay casino as a bartender in November of 2007 at blu, the casino’s live music venue and tapas bar.
“I can’t emphasize enough how exciting it is to be a part of downtown again,” he said. “(The pub) will add another spot that people are familiar with (from before Hurricane Katrina). There’s an eclectic blend of concepts and I think we fit right into that. I’m excited for Gulfport, too. I moved here in 1994 and downtown is so much more what I had envisioned it to be these days. It’s more of an honor now to be a part of that and to be fortunate enough to get a location right in the middle of it.”