Classes are finished, the bike lanes are full, and rollerblading guitar guy has taken off his shirt. Spring is well underway along Whyte Avenue, but for one notable exception. O’Byrne’s patio—or “deck”—hasn’t opened for the season yet. In fact, O’Byrne’s hasn’t been open for over two months.
But the wait is almost over. The 21 year-old Family-run Irish Pub will be opened again at noon on Friday, May 24.
Located on 82 Avenue and 106 Street, O’Byrne’s is a well known establishment in Edmonton. In 1997, the Byrne family immigrated from Ireland to Edmonton with a Sea-Can of Irish decor and 48 kegs of Irish whiskey. A year later, they opened up O’Byrne’s Pub in June of 1998 and since that time have only closed once a year on Christmas Day. O’Byrne’s is older than some of its patrons, and maintenance is to be expected. To the dismay of its loyal regulars, O’Byrnes closed for renovations on March 18, 2019.
“It was about time O’Byrnes got a facelift,” says Cathal Byrne, the pub’s general manager and the owner’s son.
A month prior, a pipe burst in the Varscona Hotel during the cold snap, causing serious flooding and damages to the flooring of O’Byrne’s. The owners began pulling the flooring in late February, but remained open until after St. Patrick’s Day.
Byrne has been at the pub every day the last eight weeks to insure every detail is correct for the re-opening.
Those details include hand cut slates straight from Ireland and individually hand cut pieces of tile that create a colorful “mat” in front of the bar, and everything down to the placement of authentic Irish decor, the tiling around the fireplace and the detailing in the baseboards.
“Little things,” Byrne says, “that only Irish people would notice to be authentic.”
Most of the staff has also stuck around O’Byrnes to help get the pub ready for the reopening.
“It’s something we take huge pride in, being able to be a part of this renewal. When it opened 21 years ago, there was nothing like it. The people who work here are proud to be here, and this revamp is a renewal of that pride,” says Byrne.
The goal is to bring back the glean that O’Byrne’s had when it originally opened.
Though the staff and home-style atmosphere will be familiar, the pub has made some big changes. New flooring, a new sound system, and a refinished patio will give O’Byrne’s a polished but recognizable interior.
“Everything has been redone, restrained, retouched up, retiled, reflowed—it’s been amazing,” says Kevan Cooke, a manager and bartender of five years.
He applied the day after his 18th birthday and has worked for the establishment since. Cooke is most looking forward to the changes made behind the bar.
“I’ve made a lot of friends who have come and gone and a lot of friends who have stayed. I consider this place my second home,” he says.
This sentiment is echoed by anyone who walks through the doors to be greeted by friendly staff and patrons alike. As a family-run establishment, it’s important to the Byrne family to maintain the sense of warmth and community.
“We are apart of the community and we want to stay a part of the community,” says Byrne. “I think it’s important in the economy and with so much growth in Edmonton, it’s important to support family run businesses. When you come in here, you’re not just another number, you’re our guest.”
Long standing regulars who were around for O’Byrne’s original grand opening will receive invitations this week to come check out the renewal. Emilie Sarnicki lives blocks from O’Byrne’s and frequents the pub. She received her invitation this week.
“O’Byrne’s is my life. I had literally no goals or direction in my life when it was closed for the past few months. I cried when I got the invitation,” Sarnicki says.
A new summer menu is also expected to roll out later this month, along with live music Tuesdays and Thursdays, and open mic on Sunday evenings.
Kevan Cooke says he can’t wait to get back to doing what he loves—serving the public.
“We’re all really excited to be returning to a new and improved bar,” says Matthew Maguire, one of O’Byrne’s senior bartenders.
Refurbished liquor shelving, more bar fridges, reorganization of product, and new glassware will help service flow more smoothly.
The pub provides an Irish atmosphere with authentic decor straight from Ireland, traditional dishes and, of course, a lot of Guinness.
According to Guinness Canada, O’Byrnes is Western Canada’s largest supplier of the brew Guinness. On St. Patrick’s Day alone, the pub serves upwards of 70 kegs of Guinness to its guests.
“I want to see the joy on everyone’s faces when they walk through the door again and they are back home.”