The well has run dry for the Killarney Pub, a Fifth Avenue staple the nabe will bid adieu to when local barkeep Paddy Finn hands over the keys to the building – a Ridge watering hole since the early 1930s – on Thursday, October 16.
“I hung out at the Killarney on and off for about 15 to 20 years,” said Finn, a once-resident of Ovington Avenue – just up the street from the pub some patrons date back to prohibition (a claim Finn said he could never quite confirm). The Longford, Ireland native bought the place in 1997, partnering up with previous owner Jimmy Laffey for six or so years before he handed in the towel.
From there on out, Finn said, Killarney was his pride and joy.
“I really gave it my all,” he recalled of his time at the Irish tavern where patrons were a “stranger but once” – a mantra many of Killarney’s clientele say comes to mind when remembering their beloved taproom.
But, unable to trounce what Finn described as an undeniable change in the neighborhood, the pub – rooted at 6911 Fifth Avenue for well over 80 years – changed hands on October 3, and was sold to local jeweler Ibrahim Salem for more than $1 million.
“It just wasn’t happening any longer; business was slow and the neighborhood became tough to sell to,” said Finn who had hoped, more than anything, to keep the building a bar. “I never planned it this way. I really wanted to give this bar over to a couple of young guys to take care of it, and come down and have a beer with them while collecting rent.”
But, Finn was forced to settle for Salem, a real estate mogul who has other plans for the black and red storefront (though nothing has been set in stone) – news that hits hard for everybody who’s ever called the Killarney a home-away-from-home.
“Despite the changing climate of the area surrounding Killarney it became abundantly clear to me that inside those swinging doors was a neighborhood unto itself,” said former tapster Brendan McDonagh who partnered full-time with Finn in September of 2011 after a stint guest bartending. “One of my biggest hopes is that all of the neighbors from the Killarney will stay neighbors, because to break up such a great cast of characters would be tragic.”
McDonagh, a Bay Ridge native and Xaverian graduate, took care of weekends with friend and fellow tender Dominic O’Regan while Finn ran the day-to-day.
“Killarney closing is bittersweet,” McDonagh said, stressing that, in just a short time, Finn has become one of his greatest mentors. “It will always have a special place in my heart.”
Finn, still riding the high of the tavern’s farewell affair, is heartbroken.
“The closing party was awesome – if it was like that every night, we would never close,” he joked of the tavern’s last call, an all-day and all-night event that saw dozens of regulars, and even some old friends, walk through the Killarney’s swinging doors for one last pint at their hometown hub on Thursday, October 9. “We should have had a closing party every night.”
Behind a set of Irish eyes that still can’t help but smile, Finn is grateful for all the little bar by the Bay Ridge movie theater has given him.
“I just want to thank everybody that’s ever stepped inside these doors,” he said. “We always had fun, always had a laugh. That’s what bars are for, aren’t they?”