Today's Announcement:

The Pub will be closed on Thursday June 22 for a private function. We are sorry for any inconvenience.

The Warmest of Welcomes

Irish tradition, friendly faces make The Pub an Oconomowoc destination

By Rebecca Seymour

Since opening The Pub in Oconomowoc 10 years ago this October, Aelred Gannon and his wife, Bernie, figure they have served 520,000 properly poured pints of Guinness.

The Irish bar and restaurant has become somewhat of an Oconomowoc icon - a place where in the Irish tradition, one hundred thousand welcomes are served up with an abundance of great food, drink, music and conversation.

Welcome to The Pub

FOREVER LOVE: Aelred Gannon and his wife, Bernie, grew up in Sligo, Ireland, and when they met at 18, it was love at first sight. The couple is pictured here in one of the Pub's four "snugs," the Irish term for a quiet alcove, all of which depict a piece of Sligo history.

The Gannons credit The Pub’s success to an unwavering commitment to working hard at something they love, as well as the support from friends, family and the community around them.

“We are so grateful for the people who patronize us. If they weren’t coming through our door, we wouldn’t be here,” says Aelred. “We treat everyone as if they were guests in our own home. We make the effort to know their name and a little something about them and they become our friends.”

Bernie chimes in with a story about patrons who came into The Pub late one night last January, just as the restaurant was closing. “It was a terrible, snowy night and these gentlemen came in and we cooked them up a meal. They were so grateful. They just came back this summer and were so surprised that we recognized them,” she says, smiling.

A bit of the old country

Aelred and Bernie grew up two streets apart in Sligo, along the northwest coast of Ireland. Bernie’s father was Sligo’s undertaker and local alderman and Aelred’s parents owned Gannon's Fish Store, which sold fresh fish and poultry.

Welcome to The Pub

NATIVE LAND: The Pub is adorned with mementos and trinkets from Ireland, including this tribute to Sligo and this portrait of Lady Lavery, a painter whose likeness appeared on Irish currency for much of the 20th century.

Aelred's great-grandfather established McLynn's Pub in Sligo in 1890, a popular local watering hole and music venue to this day. Aelred’s first job at the tender age of 12 was as a barback at the local pub and then at 18 he started bartending at his cousin’s pub in Dublin. “I guess it runs in my family. There must be some sort of craziness there,” adds Aelred, laughing.

Even the couple’s first meeting can be attributed to a restaurant. “We met in an Italian café in Sligo when we were 18. We were with our friends and poking fun across the room at each other and eventually I got the courage to ask Bernie out. It was love at first sight and we were married five years later,” reminisces Aelred.

A year before they were married, Aelred and Bernie traveled to America to visit Bernie’s sisters. “We saw Chicago, Boston and New York and we loved it. As soon as we were married we applied for US visas. Eight years later we finally received our green cards and we moved to the US. We were looking for that great American dream,” says Bernie.

In 1989 the Gannon’s moved first to Wauwatosa and then to Boston where Aelred eventually landed a job as catering and banquets manager at a golf course and Bernie was a stay at home mom for their children, Claire and Brian.

Bernie’s sister opened Celtic Antiques & Gifts in Delafield in 1993 and asked Aelred to come to Wisconsin to help get the store organized. It was a trip that would change the course of the Gannon’s lives forever.

“I was introduced to Bob Lang who was getting ready to open the Carpenters Pub in Delafield and he asked me to be the manager. It was great. It was a magical time for Delafield and there was so much positive energy. It was the most fun I have ever had,” says Aelred.

For eight years Aelred managed the popular Delafield establishment while Bernie hosted and waited tables. In 2001, something was brewing on the horizon, ten miles away in Oconomowoc. The Gannon’s own pub was calling for them.

Céad Mile Fáilte

Walking into The Pub restaurant guests are immediately transported to a place and even a time far away from the every day bustle left behind on Main St. Above the front door is a sign that reads “Céad Mile Fáilte,” a traditional Irish greeting that means “One hundred thousand welcomes.”

Each visit to the bar and restaurant promises something new to discover with every nook and cranny of the bar and dining room adorned with the art, musical instruments, old photos, trinkets and treasures of the Gannon’s cherished homeland.

Welcome to The Pub

IRISH TRADITION IN LAKE COUNTRY: Aelred and Bernie figure they have served 520,000 pints of Guinness since opening The Pub ten years ago.

The building where The Pub is located is 120-years-old, making it one of Oconomowoc’s oldest business structures. It was once a drug store, as well as a meeting place for the Oconomowoc Freemasons during the 1800’s.

For 20 years before the Gannon’s transformed the space into The Pub, the building had been home to The Seasons Italian restaurant.

“The restaurant had been closed for six years when I first walked through it. When I came in through the back door it was creepy and dark, but it had a unique feel to it. There were no windows and the floors were covered in red carpet. I loved it,” remembers Aelred.

The Gannon’s had their work cut out for them. Enlisting the help of family and friends, they worked tirelessly between July and when they opened their doors to the public on October 23, 2001. “We just opened the bar because the dining room wasn’t ready. It was a panic opening because we needed the money!” says Aelred, smiling and shaking his head at the memory.

“We had 120 people – former customers and all the friends who helped us. It was good fun,” adds Bernie. “In Ireland everyone has their own local pub and when you say ‘I’m going to the pub,’ everyone knows where you’re going. That’s what we wanted our restaurant to be. A friendly, comfortable place to come and meet people and have a good meal. Somewhere where you can strike up a conversation with anyone.”

Ireland meets the heartland

The Pub’s menu is a blend of traditional Irish dishes handed down from Aelred’s and Bernie’s families, as well as contemporary and vegetarian cuisine. As much as possible, the Gannon’s utilize locally raised meats, handcrafted artisan cheeses from Ireland and Wisconsin and fresh produce procured from Oconomowoc’s farmer’s market.

“During the summer most of our vegetables come from the farmer’s market. We used to drive to Madison each week for their market, but Oconomowoc’s has gotten so wonderful we go there instead now. We started offering our roasted beet salad because of all the beautiful beets at the market. There’s nothing like it,” says Aelred.

Welcome to The Pub

CORRECTION: Make that 520,001 pints of Guinness!

From Molly Malone’s cockles and mussels, Irish smoked salmon, shepherd’s pie and Irish lamb stew to ahi tuna, steaks and specialty pizzas, as well as properly poured pints and a selection of wines from around the globe – there is something to tantalize every palette.

“And don’t forget about our fish fry,” says Aelred, laughing. “Our shepherds pie and our fish fry are always our biggest sellers. It’s Wisconsin, after all.”

With each meal served, patrons are started off with a plate heaped with thick slices of freshly baked Irish soda and brown breads made from old family recipes with flour imported from Ireland. In the last ten years, the Gannon’s have sliced and served 11,000 loaves of brown bread.

“We have attempted to create a little bit of Ireland here in Oconomowoc with a particular reflection on our family background and heritage in Sligo,” says Aelred. “Our focus is just to make people feel welcome. It’s an Irish thing. During the last ten years we have met so many wonderful people and most of our friends are people we met at The Pub. It’s great to be a part of the Oconomowoc community.”

The Pub is located at 114 North Main St. in downtown Oconomowoc, one half-block north of the intersection of Main St. and Wisconsin Ave., and one half-block south of City Beach on Lac La Belle. For more information, visit www.aelredspub.com or call (262) 567-8850.