The Shamrock is slated to reopen the first or second week of September.
walls, Robert Mahr is excited to present the renamed Shamrock Bar & Grill to the LGBT and greater Madison community.
Pending the approval of a new alcohol license (PDF), Mahr plans to reopen the tavern the first or second week in September.
"When Glenn had to close the Shamrock, it was something that I really wanted to save," he says, referring to former owner Glenn Jahns. "For a lot of reasons -- for the LGBT community, for a bar that's been here for so many years and just because of the feeling it gives to us."
Mahr has worked at the Shamrock for 11 years, most recently as the bar's manager. He decided to take over the business after Jahns was forced to close the tavern June 30 due to ongoing debts.
"Eight years ago when Glenn bought the business, he paid too much for it and was never able to keep his head above water," Mahr says. "So he declared bankruptcy."
The bar's name change reflects both Mahr's understanding that past owners may hold the rights to the previous name and because he plans to expand the tavern's food offerings. Mahr has already redesigned the bar's popular brunch menu and expanded its dinner fare. Patrons may soon have the option of ordering flatbread pizzas, shrimp and steaks, in addition to the bar's traditional offerings of fries and cheese curds.
Mahr also plans to create a drink menu, adding a wine list and craft Wisconsin beers.
"We're definitely going for more of a lounge and cocktail experience, as opposed to a Wisconsin tavern experience," he says.
Mahr says Jahns will continue to work as Shamrock's kitchen manager, and former staff members are welcome to reapply.
"I don't see why everyone can't come back," he says.
Capitol Neighborhoods held a meeting Monday night to discuss Mahr's plans for the Shamrock. When asked whether Jahns' financial difficulties would affect the bar's reopening, Mahr said he was working with a bank trustee as well as Jahns' bankruptcy attorney, who did not anticipate holdups.
"Unfortunately, Glenn has lost a lot here," Mahr said. "You can't file bankruptcy on unpaid sales tax, so that will be something that follows him around for a while."
Neighborhood resident Rosemary Lee said she was impressed with the bar's renovations, particularly the exposed brick walls. Mahr says the idea came to him while he was in the Shamrock's basement, where the bricks are already visible.
"I said, 'Well, what if it continued up?'" he says. "We just started chipping and kept going, and going, and going, and now basically all the walls are showing. I couldn't be happier about it."
While chipping, Mahr says he came across an inscription on a plaster wall that lay behind wood paneling.
It reads, "Felicia was here 4/20/91."
The inscription appears to have been written by Felicia Melton-Smyth, a prominent figure in Madison's LGBT community, who was murdered in 2008 while on vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. As reported by Steven Elbow and Bill Novak in The Capital Times, Melton-Smyth was cherished for her wit and volunteer activities -- "helping out as a crew member at the ACT AIDS Ride bicycling fundraiser, selling holiday toys for adults and children living with HIV, promoting gay sports leagues, spending her holidays with AIDS patients."
Melton-Smyth also ran a gift drive at the Shamrock Bar, where she was known as the "Cruise Director," a reference to character Julie McCoy from the ABC television series, The Love Boat. Mahr says he will continue the fundraiser. He also plans to frame Melton-Smyth's inscription: "I chipped around it, so her memory will always be here."