WINTER 2018 / VOL. 18 ISSUE 1

John Kelly Scores Big With His New York City Pub
By Patrick Oisin Mulholland
Special to The Irish American Post
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Nestled off Broadway on the Upper West Side of New York City, the Parlour Irish Pub and Restaurant is "your very own small piece of Ireland in Manhattan," proudly explained John Kelly, the owner. 

A stone’s throw from the 1 Line subway station on West 86th Street, The Parlour offers an authentic Irish pub experience only 15-minutes from Times Square by train. 

Upon entrance, patrons are greeted with familiar sights, from a traditional mahogany bar and high barstools, to a treasure trove of pub games and Glasgow Celtic memorabilia. Between the tinkle of clinking glasses and thud of potted billiard balls, soccer fans offer their own parallel commentary to whatever match is being played on a roaring television set. 

Kelly is originally from Dublin. He first visited New York on vacation in 1983, fell in love with the place, and then emigrated five years later. He soon landed a job at the premium steakhouse, Smith & Wollensky, which equipped him with the skills to one day manage his own business. 

"When I set up shop, there were no Irish bars in this part of town," said Kelly.

"The area is mostly doctors and lawyers – professional people that own their apartments, and have a family."

"Back then," he remarked, "perceptions of Ireland were very different. A lot of people in America thought Ireland was still a poor country with horses and carts. You know, this idea that the wheels weren’t just round yet."

In order to counter this narrative, Kelly was keen to kit out his spacious, new venue with paintings and prints by Irish artists. An impressionistic portrait of William Butler Yeats watches dutifully over the entrance to a cozy backroom, which is reserved for private parties.

"We tried to bring that traditional Irish image and feel into the next century," said Kelly, "blending the old in with the new." 

But he is most animated when he singing the praises of his futbol club, Celtic. The Parlour is the home of New York Glasgow Celtic Supporters’ Club, with everyone from Neil Lennon to Martin O’Neill having visited at one time or another. 

"That’s my prized possession up on the wall!" exclaimed Kelly, gesturing to the far side of the room where a brightly colored shirt was proudly displayed. "The last jersey Henrik Larsson wore for Celtic: he signed it and gave it to the team doctor, who was a friend of mine. And he gave it to me."

On Saturdays, live music plays from 10:30 p.m. ‘til the wee hours of the morning, around 4 a.m. In addition to some of the classic pub favorites, like Magners cider and Smithwick’s red ale, Kelly prides himself on his Irish whiskey collection. 

"They’ll always remember having a Redbreast here," said John. "It’s not too expensive, but it’s not too cheap either!"

At present, Kelly is gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day, when Ireland will face off against England in the final game of the Six Nations rugby season. He is expecting a large draw and predicts the match to be a thriller.


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