McMurray’s: Old Structure, New Feel
Brien O’Neil doesn’t think anyone should forget about McMurray’s Irish Pub. He sure hasn’t.
“I’m hoping for a lost semester, not a year,” O’Neil joked.
O’Neil, a Wittenberg alumnus and general manager of McMurray’s, has been hard at work to rebuild the popular off-campus bar after it burned down this past June. Instead of rebuilding on the location of the old bar, O’Neil decided to buy up and refurbish the building next door at 625 N. Limestone Street, formerly the site of the Woods-Allgier Funeral Home as well as a residential building. This building, originally built in the 1830s, possess both big challenges and an exciting twist to what will soon be the new McMurray’s.
Wittenberg students were disappointed that the construction on this new site was not finished in time for homecoming, as originally intended. O’Neil credits complications with the insurance company and difficulties obtaining a modified occupancy permit from the city of Springfield as causes for this false start. The occupancy permit is the only thing standing in McMurray’s way to reopen at this point. However, O’Neil has taken this time to make improvements to the plans for the new McMurray’s.
“The safety level they’re having us try to attain is almost financially unattainable,” said O’Neil. However, he did say that McMurray’s is working to achieve as many of the permits as their building will allow. “We’ll have all the safety amenities that other places have so it will be a safe building,” added O’Neil.
One of the most expensive safety measures the new building acquired was a multi room sprinkler system, to ensure preventing another loss in case there is another fire.
“It’s $100,000 dollars, but now the whole building won’t burn down,” chuckled O’Neil. O’Neil recalled pulling up to the ash pile that was old McMurray’s, and hearing a fireman tell him: “we’re in damage control right now, you’re not saving anything.” The purchase of the new sprinkler system makes it highly less likely of a fire of this magnitude occurring a second time.
However, O’Neil wants to try to keep the integrity of the old structure.
“I’m going for a steampunk, vintage feel,” said O’Neil.
The structure feels like walking into a Great Gatsby party. The building contains several fireplaces, all donned with large gold framed mirrors, which contrast against the deep red walls. The original staircase is worn but solid, twisting up the center of the building leading to the second floor.
One of the biggest and possibly most discussed changes in the new McMurray’s will be its use of the building’s multiple floors. O’Neil envisions a first floor with some of the loud music and dancing patrons grew to expect from the old McMurray’s, as well as a second floor for patrons looking to enjoy a less crowded and less hectic bar scene. Both floors will have their own sets of men’s and women’s restrooms, as well as multiple fully functional bars. Despite rumors, both floors will be open to all ages allowed entry to the bar, although O’Neil is open to change.
“Ultimately the customers will decide the final layout and organization of the bar by where they choose to be,” says O’Neil.
In addition to the multiple floors, several different rooms will be open to guests, including open rooms for tables and a dance floor on the first floor, as well as lounges on the second floor.
However, not everyone is excited for the re-opening. Michael Anes, associate professor of psychology tweeted “Will their reprehensible, dangerous and illegal alcohol-serving policies continue?”
Anes further elaborated, “Owners of establishments such as Mc’s contribute to the normalization of serious alcohol consumption in college students. The health and welfare toll of college binge-drinking, and related serious concerns such as elevated risk of sexual assault perpetration with heavy drinking in a student population, are well-known and well-researched.”
O’Neil commented saying that some professors have opinions about McMurray’s without ever stepping through the doors. O’Neil invited professors to come in and enjoy food and beverages, saying “it will change their minds.” O’Neil also said that the old location never had an underage drinking violation.
Erin Harte, class of 2013 tweeted, “personally, as much as I love McMurray’s, the idea of drinking where dead people used to be does not entice me.” Harte continued, “however, you know I’ll be at happy hour when I come to visit #cantquitthatCBR.”
Kim Mowrey added to the conversation, tweeting, “This is strange for me as an Alumni. I’ll probably be hitting up Station more often.”
The chicken bacon ranch (CBR) has already made appearances on campus, feeding the frenzy of CBR deprived students.
“I’m excited to be able to order CBR again,” commented Britta Carson, junior.
As for the feel of new McMurray’s, “I want to have a bar my friends and I would have liked to go to when we were in college,” says O’Neil. “Having to rebuild is a hassle but it also gives us a chance to start over and make the bar in our own way.”