By TIM KELLY
SOMERS POINT – If it seems like every day is St. Patrick’s Day at Josie Kelly’s Public House, then what of the Real McCoy on March 17?
“No pressure,” proprietor Kathleen (with husband Dermot) Lloyd said with a laugh. “We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Great strategy, for the authentic Irish Restaurant and Pub at 908 Shore Road in Somers Point has been nothing short of a hit since its opening last summer. No sense messing with a proven winner, right?
On most nights the parking lot is crowded, of course with people of Irish heritage, and also those who just love good food, good drink and good times. The owners are so committed to what they do, the Gaelic slogan “OL BIA AGUS CRAIG” which translates to “drink, food and good times” is emblazoned on the side of the building.
“We thought we had a great concept and a great location,” said Kathleen Lloyd, who is juggling the ongoing demands of the business with her responsibilities as “Mum” to the couple’s three boys under four years old, including a four-month-old.
“We never dreamed we would be welcomed the way we have been by the entire community,” Lloyd added. “We’re actually living our dream.”
This is not to say the establishment doesn’t have some exciting plans to celebrate the day honoring Ireland’s Patron Saint, and all things Irish. In fact, the festivities have already begun with several “pre-St. Patty’s Day” events, leading up to the big day itself. Consider:
- Saturday, March 9, Josie Kelly’s will host an “After Parade Shenanigans Party” to follow the popular Atlantic City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, from 2 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. There will be Irish music with Irish dancers, bagpipers and three different live acts including John McNutt’s Celtic Rock band from 2 p.m. to “late.”
- Earlier on Saturday and again on Sunday, the pub will have watch parties for the Six Nations Rugby Tournament, of which Ireland is the defending champion. The other countries involved are Scotland, Wales, England, Italy and France. Josie Kelly’s will have all the games live, with no cover, and will be offering their “Full Irish Breakfast” of bangers (Irish sausages) rashers (traditional crispy slices of fried ham, also sometimes referred to as Irish bacon) black and white pudding, grilled tomato and onion gravy.
And other events will include:
- Local ruggers from the Somers Point Sharks and the South Jersey Rugby Club will no doubt be represented, and fans of all knowledge levels are welcome. The Saturday games begin at approximately 9:15 a.m. and run until about 1:45 p.m. On Sunday, Ireland squares off against France at 11 a.m.
- Lloyd said the establishment will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day itself “all day and night” on Saturday, March 16th, which is also the date of Sea Isle City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and on Sunday, the official holiday.
Irish music and dancers, bagpipers and Irish rock music will again be the entertainment features, along with such traditional fare as Irish lamb shank stew, and the popular beef and Guinness pie.
“At the request of our customers, we will also have corn beef and cabbage, which is really very Irish-American,” Lloyd said of the special menu.
The cabbage is butter braised with fennel and carrots and served with the finest corn beef.
“We pride ourselves in listening to our customers and giving them what they want,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd met her husband, who was born in Ireland, when she gave him a haircut 13 years ago at a salon in Ventnor. Dermot was working at Ri Ra, the Irish bar-restaurant at the Tropicana at the time. Their dream to open an authentic Irish Public House at the former site of Sandi Point Coastal Bistro and before that Mac’s, came to fruition last summer.
Lloyd said the couple knew karma was working on their side when they were negotiating to buy their current home. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the house formerly belonged to the Previti family, who used to own Mac’s.
“We have a keen appreciation for who owned that building and its history,” she noted of the Previti family.
Upon learning of the coincidence of the house sale, the family donated some vintage beer signs and other memorabilia from when they owned the iconic eatery.
No “Luck of the Irish” references please. The Lloyds and their friendly, hard-working staff have made it happen with good old-fashioned quality food, attentive service and a relaxed homey atmosphere. The first floor was designed and renovated by John Mirenda, who also renovated Atlantic City’s Knife and Fork Inn, Dock’s Oyster House and the Linwood Country Club.
The upstairs “Whiskey Bar” is a do-it-yourself creation “because we ran out of money,” Lloyd said.
“That is such a great space we really wanted to utilize it, and we’re very happy with how it turned out.”
There really is a Josie Kelly, the late maternal grandmother of Dermot Lloyd. Her oil portrait hangs next to one of the downstairs bars.
“She was a homemaker and a person who liked to have things done just so,” Lloyd said. “She was dedicated to doing things the right way. We decided to name the place after her as homage, and to remind us we are striving every day to live up to those ideals.”