ROGERS PARK — Loyola University has entered the bar business.
Ireland's, a pub in the basement of the Damen Student Center, at 6511 N. Sheridan Road, served its first beer and glasses of wine late last week.
"I was shocked," senior Max Timm said of the Jesuit university's decision to sign off on the idea.
Timm runs Ireland's — which is open to the general public — as part of Loyola Limited, a student-run business enterprise that operates several other ventures around campus, including a bike shop, a pizzeria and a boutique hotel. The enterprise oversees $2.5 million in assets.
Jennifer Clark, the university's associate vice president of campus and community planning, said the liquor license for Ireland's was the university's first ever. The owners of the license include Loyola President and CEO Father Michael Garanzini and McDonald's Corp.'s former chairman Michael Quinlan, a Loyola trustee and donor.
Clark said the student center, which opened in April 2013, had been outfitted with a pub-style area, but alcohol has only been served there during a few special events.
"We never planned to run it full-time as a pub," she said. "The intention was to use it for special events. The reality was it went sorely underutilized for the first year it was in operation."
So the university considered a proposal from Loyola Limited and eventually OK'd the project, she said.
"I just didn't know how it would work out," said one of Ireland's bartenders, 22-year-old Matthew McLaughlin, who was pouring beers for students and faculty alike Tuesday. "I was very apprehensive at first."
But after some minor construction, the pub opened Friday with a small kitchen that serves cold-cuts, hotdogs, nachos — and beer and wine. The pub's three taps include Bud Light for $3.50 a pint and Goose Island Rambler IPA and Ale Syndicate Sunday Session for $4.50.
Timm said he hoped to attract big crowds for Loyola's basketball games.
Clark said the pub's staff were hand-selected by the university and are trained to follow all laws, including those that prohibit over-serving patrons and serving underage drinkers.
"I really have no fear whatsoever that they can manage that kind of responsibility," she said. "They really had the fear of God put into them."
She said she expected most of the bar's customers to be graduate students and faculty and staff.
Ireland’s is named after George Ireland, coach of the 1963 Loyola men's basketball team that famously won the NCAA national championship and competed against Mississippi State in the well-documented "Game of Change."
Ireland's is open Monday through Friday, from 3-11 p.m. Wine and beer is available from 5–10 p.m. each day.
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