Audio: "I'm still quite young at heart," in conversation with Finn McCool's owner Sean Kennedy
Since 2002, Finn McCool's Irish Pub has been a cornerstone of the Mid-City neighborhood. With tables and awnings lining the spacious side patio and a front door placed on the corner of the building, there's a mix of new world and old world as you climb the few steps into the bar.
Once inside, the expansive layout boasts photos of people with their arms around each other, beers in their hands, and smiles on their faces. There's sports memorabilia, televisions full of soccer games, and a giant harpoon. That's right, a harpoon. "Just like you’d see on an old sailing ship," new owner - since June 1, 2016 - Sean Kennedy explains.
Just like any good pub, there's a story about that harpoon. Finns has a very loyal patron who is great friends with the previous owners - Stephen and Pauline Patterson - as well as Finns new owner Sean Kennedy. His name is Jonathan. The story goes that the harpoon came from Jonathan's great-great-grandfather who had come here from Scandinavia. "That harpoon has become this symbol for masculinity and virility," Kennedy says, and it has been the center of much conversation.
Knowing Jonathan well, Kennedy wanted to confirm this tale, and much to his humorous delight, he learned that nothing about the story is true. Jonathan bought that harpoon in Mystic, Connecticut in 1994. "The myth has been debunked," Kennedy says with a laugh, but we know that the mythical magic that runs through Finns goes much deeper than the items that hang on the walls.
Anyone who was a Finns lover pre-Katrina knows that after Katrina there was a family and community built around the pub. There were people there to help gut the place and bring it back to its full glory after Katrina left it damaged and watered like so many of our beloved hangouts. “It got that so many people were going there [to help] that on Friday nights Stephen and Pauline would buy coolers of beer. Everyone would have lawn chairs, and we would all sit there...we would talk and support each other. We had a center, and that was really important for people at that stage.”
That family continued to grow and with that growth came a soccer team named, fittingly, Finn McCool's. If you are imagining young, strapping men all running up and down the field in the name of McCool's, you are not completely misguided. They did run the field, but as Kennedy says with a mischievous chuckle, “At one stage we had a back four line of myself and three very good friends, plus the goalkeeper, and the combined age was over 200. Although, we still managed to win a lot of games against teams that were much younger than us.”
Whether the goals are happening on the field in honor of Finn McCool's or in the bar while fellow McCoolers cheer on their favorite teams, you can pretty much count on soccer being as frequent as beer. Although, with trivia nights, food competitions, charity events, and holiday parties, don't think that Finns is a single focused place. That applies to the drinks as well. "Our bartender Shane is great at making mint juleps," Kennedy says.
Kennedy has always wanted to like mint juleps, but "...a number of years ago we went to a friend’s house for the Kentucky Derby. I saw them making mint juleps and they looked so lovely, but it was the nastiest things I’ve ever had in my life." What's his drink of choice, then?
"Peroni," he says with a smile. “We have a very good friend, Billy, that passed away a few years ago, and he would drink Peroni. At his wake we drank it, and so I always think of Billy when I drink a Peroni.”
Memories and people are at the heart of Finn McCool's and that is why Kennedy says of his new ownership, "We aren’t going to change anything. Stephen and Pauline have done a great job of establishing a living thing that caters to all kinds of people.” That doesn't mean there won't be new additions, and that's something we can all raise a glass to.
Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.