Irish Poodle gets the blues

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McMahon’s Irish Pub remakes longtime East Lake watering hole

The Poodle Club — long a cornerstone at the 3000 block of East Lake Street — has received a new owner and a makeover as “the world’s first Irish blues pub.”

In late October, Belfast native Dominic McMahon, formerly a general manager or partner at Irish pubs Kieran’s, O’Donovan’s and the Idle Hour, was putting the finishing touches on McMahon’s Irish Pub, at 3001 E. Lake St.

McMahon bought the business this summer and has been adding an Irish feel, with tables atop Guinness barrels and Irish (and a few local) beer coasters pressed into the newly polished bar. The beer list will include a full range of Irish beers and liquor, as well as European brews (the exception, said McMahon: no English beers) and locals like Gluek’s and Summit.

The existing stage will be revamped as a centerpiece of what McMahon called the “world’s first Irish blues pub,” with the likes of The Butanes, McMahon’s Friday night house band. The bar will feature live music Wednesday–Saturday, with karaoke on Mondays (staff are still drawing straws to see who has to work that night, joked McMahon), and pool and dart leagues to play on the new tables and boards, set against the back drop of several newly painted wall panels. The colors of the bar — browns and the dark maroon of the ceiling — are intended to make for a relaxing atmosphere, said McMahon.

The food will be a “hybrid American/Irish,” said McMahon, with a dozen styles of chicken wings and traditional Irish fare like cooked-to-order fish and chips, stews and soups, as well as sandwiches and one-pound baked potatoes “bigger than a grapefruit,” McMahon said, with a list of toppings to add on. McMahon’s will serve breakfast and brunch on weekends

While McMahon has transformed the bar, past patrons will recognize the long, ambling bar and the welcoming feel, McMahon hopes.

“I want to make it a regular’s pub,” he said, “where people can come in by themselves and meet 12 people they know. We want to turn this into a good old neighborhood blues pub for everyone.”

That includes former Poodle Club regulars, whom he hopes to lure back. Some have come through the doors, “and their jaws drop,” said McMahon. Two of those regulars never left at all: “Leonard” and another famous patron, both of whose ashes remain in a glass-front box devoted to their memories on the wall near the entrance. McMahon let them stay out of respect for the “old, old regulars,” he said. “You don’t mess with the dead.”

McMahon thought about keeping the Poodle Club name, but said there was too much “bad blood” between the neighborhood and the Poodle’s last owners. “We want to give the neighborhood what the Poodle Club used to be,” he said, “a fun, friendly, happy place to drink.” McMahon said he remembers the bar under its original ownership from when he managed the old Embers, nearby. McMahon even incorporated the Poodle into his logo — a likeness of the famous Notre Dame fighting Irishman with a poodle’s head, green hat and a pint of Guinness in his hand.

Kevin Pearson, who has rented a house next door to the Poodle Club (from the bar’s original owner) for five years, said he loves that the new bar is going in, and he looks forward to seeing what changes are made. Although Pearson — who works as a bartender in St. Louis Park — didn’t have any major complaints about the Poodle Club, he said the recent owners “didn’t really take care of the place. It was one spot [in the area] I thought was a little suspicious,” he said. He thinks McMahon’s will be an improvement.

McMahon hopes as much. “We want to keep the riff-raff out and keep it a nice, clean-cut pub,” he said. “Staff don’t want to work in a hostile environment, and customers don’t want to drink in it.

“If you can’t come in and be normal, go somewhere else. But no one’s saying you can’t have a good time; that’s the whole point.”

At press time, McMahon’s was expected to open in early November. Once that happens, the bar will be open 11 a.m.– 2 p.m. daily. The phone number is the same as the old Poodle’s: 722-1377.

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