It's 9 a.m., and the Guinness stout is pouring. The Brass Door's newly opened room rings with shouts, laughter, and loud conversations in Irish accents, lilting and growled.
"It's 3-o'clock in Dublin," an early celebrant announces, turning up a freshly drawn pint of mother's milk while someone else turns up the volume on a big screen TV. The bar's co-founder Seamus Loftus, born in the town of Killala in County Mayo, describes the casual new room as being like a country pub. "Like where I'm from," he says, contrasting it with his slicker "city pub" next door.
Normally the bar would be closed and quiet at this hour, and all these rowdy fellows would be at home behaving themselves. But it's the day of the All-Irish soccer final, and Loftus has pitched a special little get-together for old country friends and football fans. Very soon — possibly within the next week — the all-purpose pub will open early for everybody, with weekday breakfasts starting at 7 a.m. and brunch on weekends.
"We're actively looking for a chef to lead our kitchen," Loftus says. "We're going to start doing evening meals as well." This is all just the beginning of an ambitious expansion capped by the transformation of the abandoned Burger King across Madison into a green space with a stage rigged to accommodate five-piece bands, and a 40-foot projection screen.
"For me and [partner] Scott Crosby, this entire thing started out as a romantic vision," Loftus says. "Then we labored through the reality of owning a pub and restaurant in downtown Memphis." Soon after the Brass Door opened, a building on Madison collapsed, resulting in a prolonged street closure and hard times. But with traffic flowing again and a new pair of boutique hotels opening in the neighborhood, things are looking brighter than ever.
"We're doubling down," says Loftus, who now aims to throw the biggest St. Patrick's Day party Memphis has ever seen. "And we can," he says, "Because we'll have a park across the street."
To prepare for the big day, Loftus is organizing a series of events he's calling "St. Practice Day," held on the 17th of every month between now and March. He sees the smaller parties as an opportunity to try out new bands and new food and drink specials. "It's a chance to build excitement and a chance to get it right," he says, adding that the next three St. Patrick's Days fall on weekend nights, which means they'll be exponentially larger than normal anyway. "And we've only got five practice runs before the big game."
Since opening doors in 2011, the Brass Door has been a home away from home for soccer fans. It's also been a music venue, a downstairs comedy club, and a popular lunch spot. "We wanted this room to do everything," Loftus says, explaining at least part of the rationale behind expansion.
"The best Irish pubs were designed to have places you can talk treason," he says. "There are terrible versions of Irish pubs in America. We call them plastic Paddy pubs where everything's a leprechaun. Irish pubs are designed to be integral to their community. I want to bring drama in here. To have a place where people can talk passionately."