By Will Fairless
Irish Bred Pub (833 S Railroad Ave, for those very few who don’t know), celebrated its 10th anniversary in August. The Opelika staple opened in 2010 and has grown along with the city.
James McBride, the general manager of Irish Bred Pub (IBP), said in a statement to the Observer, “When we opened in August 2010, we were only the corner building and the upstairs. Our current ‘Dublin Lodge’ Dining room was the Red Door June Coffee Shop.”
Opelika’s downtown food selection was essentially limited to Café 123, Jimmy’s, Sid’s and Red Door June; 8th & Rail was between owners when IBP opened. “Opelika was this hidden little jewel, and that was our main focus; connecting with the Opelika locals and figuring out how to get the folks in Auburn to drive over,” McBride said.
He likened his vision for Opelika to the French Quarter in New Orleans. “The French Quarter is the destination, not the individual bars,” he said. “The more [restaurants] the better. Let’s make downtown Opelika the destination and we will all have a piece of the pie.”
By the winter of 2010 (aided, at least according to McBride, by the electricity that one Cam Newton brough to Lee County that fall), IBP had started to make a name for itself and was doing a lot of business.
Soon enough, as downtown Opelika was adding more restaurants, IBP expanded by doing the opposite. The pub put Red Door June out of business (according to McBride), took up its lease and knocked down the wall to acquire 60 more seats, two more restrooms and an additional dish room*.
McBride said that in 2020, IBP is trying to stay on top of trend in food, drink and entertainment. “Its really about being consistent with our food and service . . . really keeping it simple,” he said. “People get hungry, they come to our restaurant for food, we cook them food, they give us money, hopefully we have done a great job and they return.”
In the future, McBride wants IBP to continue its partnerships with special needs organizations and expand some community projects it has already started.
In 2019, the Exceptional Foundation of East Alabama started working with IBP. The foundation would bring in 5-7 individuals a couple of days a week to help with opening the restaurant. That program had to be postponed because of COVID, but McBride wants to get back to it by January.
Of their community projects, McBride said that IBP already hosts some art shows, but he is pushing to schedule more upstairs at the restaurant. These would each have 10-20 local artists setting up booths with their works for sale.
“Moreover, I would like to see us pair up with some community groups and organization,” McBride said. “The City and the people of Opelika has welcomed the IBP from day #1…without them we would have tanked years ago.”
*Editor’s note: according to other sources, Irish Bred Pub and Red Door June were never competitors, as the latter had at least decided to close before the former opened