In the dining room of Shea O’Brien’s in New Paltz, manager Garvan McCloskey surveyed the uncharacteristic mess: empty bottles and cans, food containers and other refuse were strewn about the tables and floor of the otherwise very tidy establishment, conveying the message that the staff was asked to leave on very short notice. “We are devastated,” he said of the decision to close, many details of which he was not at liberty to share.
McCloskey was part of the “real Irish welcome” the patrons experienced, as he relocated from that country to New Paltz in 2012 to run the day-to-day operations at Shea O’Brien’s. “We never had a trading issue,” he said, using Irish terminology for “business problem;” the annual revenue was in seven figures. “The genesis of the problems were what we would call a bomb attack in Ireland,” which he also described as an “incendiary device,” which caused the fire which delayed the restaurant’s opening for seven months. He carefully avoided providing specific details that tied that incident to the decision to close suddenly, but said that it was due to “issues beyond our control, that we can’t change,” and that “we prefer not to deal with anymore.”
What worries him most is the fate of some 30 employees, now without work, although he said every effort is being made to find them new jobs. He said that they are all highly trained, from the dishwashers and cooks to the table staff, as part of the establishment’s mission to provide an alternative eating and drinking venue that was family friendly and comfortable for an older adult crowd. “I feel strongly about letting them down,” he said. However, McCloskey is in the same boat, as contrary to popular opinion, he was not an owner, and as manager of the shuttered pub, is now looking for work himself.
Looking back, he calls it a “wonderful ride. I didn’t know one person two-and-a-half years ago,” when he arrived from Ireland, “and I now know more than most.” He said he’s received “hundreds of messages” from concerned locals, checking to see if everything’s okay, or “if there’s any way we can help you reopen. It’s the kind of village we live in.” He said even Mike Beck, owner of P&G’s and thus a direct competitor, offered help to get Shea O’Brien’s open again.
Whether that’s possible at another location is unknown, and the business owners weren’t in the mood to talk to the press. McCloskey said that one location suggested frequently, the former site of Barnaby’s on North Chestnut Street, lacks the parking needed for such a business. It’s also the subject of a current application before the village Planning Board for a church to move in.
Dino Toscani, whom McCloskey identified as the landlord, said when he was reached by phone that the closure was a temporary, internal matter and that the restaurant would be open again next week.