House of Guinness brings a little Ireland to Waukesha

Although there’s a flat screen television at the House of Guinness, it is often unnoticed to most customers because, unless there’s a “big game,” it’s rarely turned on.

“This is a talking bar,” says bartender Judith Jacobsson.

In November of 2010, Jeff and Joe Phillips, who are father and son, purchased the bar. The transition has been very smooth, according to Jacobsson, because they did not replace staff members or make any major changes to the already successful bar. They did stop selling food in April of 2012.

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Shenanigan’s takes home ‘green’ honor

Shenanigan’s Irish Pub & Grille was just named a Maryland Green Travel Partner, a recognition from the state of restaurants in the tourism industry that are following responsible environmental practices. / LAURA EMMONS FILE

Ocean City’s best-known Irish bar is being celebrated for its commitment to being green, but it’s got nothing to do with the Emerald Isle.

Shenanigan’s Irish Pub & Grille was just named a Maryland Green Travel Partner, a recognition from the state of restaurants in the tourism industry that are following responsible environmental practices.

The pub’s participation in the self-reporting process stemmed from the efforts of bar manager Evan Hunt.

Hunt said he travels in the winter to the Hawaiian island of Oahu, and after seeing its environmental practices, like a ban on plastic baggies and avid recycling, he wanted to bring that sustainable attitude home.

And, when the town of Ocean City in spring 2010 ended its formal recycling program as a cost-cutting measure, Hunt decided he and his fellow Shenanigan’s employees could take it upon themselves to do better.

“When I came home this year,” he said, “I just kind of went on the Maryland government site, to see what I could do to raise awareness of this type of thing.”

Shenanigan’s now recycles its fry oil with a company that makes it into ethanol and biofuel. It got rid of incandescent bulbs and installed energy-effecient LED lights, and switched to biodegradable trash bags and compostable to-go boxes.

“Now we’re just trying to raise awareness, trying to get everybody to go a little bit greener, reduce their carbon footprint, and just try to be social responsible,” Hunt said.

Catherine Batavick, manager of the Maryland Green Travel program, said the program started about two years ago, with the lodging industry. About 45 hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts are now on board with their own “green” practices.

Only recently did the program extend to restaurants and attractions. Shenanigan’s, located on the Boardwalk at Fourth Street, is the second restaurant in the state to have met the stringent requirements. The first was another Irish bar, Galway Bay in Annapolis.

The program aims to recognize the state’s tourism businesses that have taken it upon themselves to become more sustainable.

“We want to promote them to the general public, and to the consumer coming to visit Maryland, who’s making the choice to stay at a more sustainable property or eat at a ‘green’ restaurant,” Batavick said.

Shenanigan’s also will be recycling its own cans and bottles, and will likely save up all the small change earned back and throw a party at the end of the year to celebrate its efforts, said Shenanigan’s manager Nick Feickert.

It wasn’t as simple as filling out a basic form, Hunt said.

Steps that Shenanigan’s took to earn its self-certification include: writing an environmental policy statement, outlining a plan to reduce property waste and provide the opportunity for recycling, and reducing energy usage.

It also has drain blockers to reduce runoff and keep temperatures a little lower to cut down on energy use. It also donates weekly and at the end of the year to local food banks

Said Hunt: “You really have to provide a measurable result to show that you’re reducing exactly what you’re saying. To actually join the program, I had to do a lot of backtracking and running numbers, showing them what exactly we reduced.”

Shenanigan’s also tries to buy local, organic menu items for the restaurant, he added.

Lisa Challenger, head of Worcester County’s office of tourism, said she isn’t surprised that Shenanigan’s is among the first restaurants in Maryland to take home this honor.

“(Owner) Greg Shockley is such a leader in the tourism industry that it just makes sense he’d be leading this charge as well. I hope this will encourage others in Worcester County to become a Green Travel Partner,” she said.