Hugs, beer, and plenty to cheer: Tír na Nog's reopening weekend a boisterous success
Posted November 7, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — A year ago this month, Annie Britton-Nice stood on Blount Strett with the Wake and District Public Safety Pipe and Drums band. They were there to bid farewell to Tír na nÓg, Raleigh's longtime Irish pub that Britton-Nice had managed for years. Owner Pete Pagano, citing his need to spend time with his family, had decided to close the restaurant and lease the space.
For the Triangle's Celtic community, it was like a death in the family. In the twilight that November evening, the pipes and drums played "Amazing Grace" before filing into the pub one last time.
On Saturday, another November evening in Raleigh, there stood Britton-Nice on Blount Street again with the pipes and drums. They paraded from their old haunts of what was Tír na nÓg around the block to the new site of what is Tír na nÓg.
She is back.
Britton-Nice's announcement last week that TNN was reopening next to London Bridge Pub on 108 Hargett St. burst upon the pub's exiled like a thousand sunrises.
The news came on a Wednesday. The official opening was that Thursday at 5 p.m. By 5:10, all the seats before the bar were already filled — a promising foreshadowing of a successful weekend. Which it was.
During this intermission, as it were, Britton-Nice had kept the area's close-knit Celtic community together with a series of "Tír na nÓg Pop up Pub" events at other sites: Burns Night at Tráli Irish Pub in Morrisville, Kilt Nights at the Raleigh Roadhouse, and that weekend was originally going to be a pub reunion event at the London Bridge Pub on Hargett, which was also celebrating its fifth anniversary.
Timing and chance made it better. London Bridge partners Darren Bridger and Mike Ruiz had recently leased an expansion next door. It made too much sense to site TNN there, with Britton-Nice as managing partner and events director.
So what about TNN's new digs? Patrons enter an oblong room painted in warm colors, the familiar TNN shield logo on the wall and windows. They'll also see Raleigh's pipe band's logo. A bustling bar is on the left. The stage, always a focal point, is at the back right corner. Rustic chandeliers of stag antlers keep the homey feel.
Gone is the dear old stone wall from the old TNN stage area. But the new TNN has a compensating feature. An extensive patio enclosure out back offers another gathering place that's both open and intimate. Patrons flowed freely between the pub and patio, catching the bands and catching up with friends.
The music is back. This weekend featured such acts as Gerry McCrudden, Nine Times Round, Raleigh's pipe band, local Celtic dancers, Born Again Heathens and Tan and Sober Gentlemen. Next Sunday, the Irish Sessions are returning — jam sessions for local Celtic musicians.
And hugs are back. Britton-Nice personally handed out hundreds. They were given out as freely as yuletide greetings in a Victorian Christmas special. And why not? It felt like Christmas came early.
Jack Jobangles (@j0bangles) is a Raleigh writer and fan. He knows how to pronounce "sláinte."