“Everything’s new,” says Doug Petkovic as he shows me around Flannery’s Pub
(323 Prospect Ave., 216-781-7782), the iconic Irish bar that he purchased last summer.
He’s not lying either: literally from top to bottom – or ceiling to flooring – the changes are extensive and conspicuous. There is new flooring throughout, from the wood floors that replaced gritty tile in the bar to the new carpeting that pads the dining room. Every table and chair has been swapped out, as have the lighting fixtures. Fresh paint graces the walls and ceilings, and there’s even a new physical arrangement that greatly enhances flow.
Petkovic and his partners achieved all of this during a frenetic two-week period that ended just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, the busiest day of the year. Upon entering, guests will enjoy a less congested entryway and bar thanks to the removal of a clumsy drink rail that bisected the main thoroughfare. A bulwark of built-in banquettes that separated the dining room from the bar was eliminated, further expanding the bar area while freeing up sight lines.
The dining room, while slightly smaller, is better defined and more comfortable thanks to new carpeting, furniture and fixtures. For diners looking for a place to sit and enjoy lunch or dinner, the changes will be appreciated.
Petkovic, who is a partner in Michael Symon Restaurants (which has no stake in Flannery’s) said that he sensed a lot of anxiety when news broke of the ownership change.
“I got a lot of questions from both customers and employees about what I was going to do with the place after I bought it,” he explains. “I said, ‘I’m going to clean it up, give you a better space to work in, and focus on improving the menu.’”
Petkovic jokes that when he was doing his due diligence by sampling the food in advance of the purchase, ordering what he believed was a good share of the menu, his server informed him that he completely overlooked the back side of the menu.
His first order of business was to cut the menu in half while improving what remained. You can still get corned beef and kraut-stuffed Reuben balls, but there’s a great new half-pound pub burger blended with chuck, brisket and short rib. Classics like bangers and mash, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and meatloaf and mashers all have been upgraded. Prices, however, have largely stayed the same.
Finishing touches to the property yet to come include historic neighborhood pictures, celebratory wall murals and an elevated beverage program. Outside, new paint will varnish the façade in colors of black, green and gold, while new “New York-style” awnings will better define the patio property.
The cherished downtown bar was opened in 1997 by Denis Flannery, who wanted to create a comfortable place for the east-side Irish and the west-side Irish to gather and meet downtown. In 2005, East Fourth Street developers MRN Ltd., in partnership with Trifecta Management Group, took over operations. The 8,000-square-foot, 160-seat bar sits at the corner of E. 4th Street and Prospect, shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Lola, Mabel’s BBQ and Chinato.
Going forward, the stewardship rests in the hands of a hospitality professional who promises hands-on control, but no radical changes.
“This has always been an Irish pub and it will always stay an Irish pub,” Petkovic promises.