Pitchers throwing strikes: Finn McCool’s strikes out and closes after one year in business

goodbye mccools illustration
Sam Ford /THE REVIEW
On the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 2, Finn McCool’s abrupt closure left students having to change their plans for every Thursday until graduation.

BY
Senior Reporter

Thursday upon Thursday night, students have loyally patronized their favorite, and perhaps the most convenient Irish pub in Newark: Finn McCool’s. On the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 2, however, Finn McCool’s abrupt closure left them having to change their plans for every Thursday until graduation.

“Due to circumstances beyond our control we are now closed. Thank you, everyone, for your support,” A sign posted on the door of Finn McCool’s read. An Instagram post also broke the news to students and local patrons that day.

Jeff Frotton, manager of McCool’s, did not give a comment to The Review.

Students like Noah Cicogna, a senior international relations major, frequented the pub for its run of more than a year and were upset to see its demise. He said that students have made a routine of attending Finn McCool’s first on Thursday nights before making their way over to Grotto Pizza or Klondike Kate’s.

According to Cicogna, many students have flocked to Deer Park Tavern instead in response to McCool’s shutdown. He said that Deer Park copied the signature cheap pitchers special of Finn’s, although Marc Ashby, the president of Ashby Hospitality Group that oversees Deer Park Tavern, said that it had been serving pitchers prior to the closure of Finn McCool’s.

Ashby expressed his condolences for the closure of the pub and empathized with the situation, saying that staying open in the restaurant business is tough. He said that all the quick service options on Main Street are cutting into the business of full service restaurants and making it hard to compete because of their cheap offerings.

Another obstacle of full service restaurants, like Finn McCool’s, is Main Street construction. Ashby said that the Main Street construction definitely hurt the dinner business of Deer Park, at the least, and that “a little change in sales can be the difference between being able to stay open or not.”

Besides the fact that it did promote construction, Ashby said that the City of Newark is generally supportive of business.

However, newer restaurants, including Finn McCool’s, had to operate under different conditions than that of restaurants like Deer Park. McCool’s had a special use permit, while Deer Park and Klondike Kate’s are “grand-fathered” in.

Therefore, Finn McCool’s constantly could have had its special use permit, which authorizes the sale of alcohol, revoked by the City of Newark. Older restaurants do not have a special use permit that can be taken away by the city government, although Ashby said that these restaurants answer to the Alcohol Beverage Commision and the police in Newark just like everyone else.

In addition to these obstacles, the restaurant’s closure could have resulted from the fact that enthusiasm for the bar only peaked on these coveted Thursday nights.

Dillon Otto, a senior elementary education major, said that he liked the atmosphere of Finn McCool’s, but he also perceived a lack of interest in the pub itself.

“The only thing that kind of stunk is there were never a lot of people there,” Otto said. “Thursday, it’s always packed, other days of the week, they never really had a lot of people. They must have had trouble getting people to come in.”

Lack of student enthusiasm over Finn McCool’s could have been due to the turnover of Catherine Rooney’s to Finn’s. Catherine Rooney’s had served students and locals since 2010, and when Frotton purchased the restaurant in 2018, he had to change the name to set it apart from the existing location of Catherine Rooney’s in Wilmington.

Cicogna said that everyone “hated” when Catherine Rooney’s changed over to Finn McCool’s.

However, in Otto’s opinion, the students were not to blame for the shut down. He said that Finn McCool’s had poor promotion and service.

“I’ve heard that people waited hours for food and the service was kind of bad. Employees yelling at each other and fighting on the job, that kind of turned people away,” Otto said.

Along with these management issues, Otto said that management could have handled the closing of Finn McCool’s in a better fashion. Over his time spent as a patron of the pub, Otto befriended some of the bartenders.

The morning he realized the bar was closing, he contacted the bartenders to see if they could provide an explanation. The employees responded that they too found out that morning that they did not have a job.

Otto was most surprised by the abruptness of the closure. He said that it has led him and other students to believe that its reason for closing had to do with a reason other than money.

The disappearance of Finn McCool’s may have caused students to mourn the death of their Thursday night ritual, but soon enough they will adapt to this change and settle into their new barstools.

“We’ll do what we do, we’ll move on,” Cicogna said. “Drink somewhere else.”

And that they will do … until that place closes too.

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