The owner of the St. James Irish Pub in Fall River wants to sell the business
But his decision to retire, after nearly a quarter of a century running the famed basement business on Purchase Street, had little to do with burnout or disillusionment.
It was the sudden death last May of a close friend from a stroke caused by an embolism that led the 68-year-old Fall River native to take stock of his situation.
“I started thinking, I’m not getting any younger and I don’t know how much time I have left, so I thought it was time to go,” Travassos said.
“It gave me a new perspective,” he added, mostly because his friend’s death was so unexpected.
“He was a bull. He worked out all the time and had a personal trainer,” Travassos said, noting that his friend, who previously worked as a Horizon Beverage delivery driver, retired at 60.
Travassos said a deal was in the works to sell his pub – which has seen its pub cooking business take off in recent years – to two younger men, both of whom have extensive restaurant and bar experience.
He declined to discuss the personal details of the two interested buyers until they got final approval from the state of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. This process, Travassos said, could take between three weeks and another two months.
Activity rebounds, but hiring remains difficult
Travassos says that despite the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic – which forced it to close for four months in 2020 and endure seating restrictions until May 2021 – business has returned to normal in terms of revenue. .
“It’s healthy. Our customer base is strong. We’re very, very lucky,” he said.
Travassos, however, said he still struggled to hire people willing to man the bar or the waiting tables. He says he has 13 full-time and part-time bartenders and waitresses, but could use two or three more.
“It’s hard to say why. It’s an industry-wide problem. People seem less motivated to work,” he said.
The challenges continue:With COVID restrictions lifted, Fall River restaurant owners now face a new challenge
On a recent Florida trip to Orlando and Weston, Travassos said he spotted a number of restaurants, some of which were chain restaurants, with reduced hours or days of operation.
He says he is convinced it was a sure sign that there is still a shortage of people interested in part-time jobs in the food industry.
Born and raised in Fall River
Travassos first lived as a young boy in the Sunset Hill public housing project before moving to Buffinton Street in the Niagara neighborhood.
He says his late father spent most of his adult life as an employee of the former Quaker Fabric Corp. while working nights as a bartender.
A 1972 graduate of Bishop Connolly High School, Travassos said he earned an associate’s degree in law enforcement at Bristol Community College and then spent three years at Salve Regina University.
He says he dropped out after passing the civil service exam to become a Fall River police officer.
Five years later, he switched gears and became a Fall River firefighter for 15 years, eventually becoming a member of the Flint Fire Station Arson Squad.
During this period, Travassos said, he tended to bar at night for extra money at what was then known as the Fall River Inn as well as the former Skipper restaurant and bar in Fairhaven.
History of St. James Irish Pub
Travassos became co-owner of the St. James Irish Pub in 1998. John Brandt, owner of the neighbor Old fire station smoke shoporiginally started the business, which at the time had a darts room instead of a kitchen.
The four-story building at 91 Purchase St. was built by the Fall River Lodge of Elks and opened in 1911 for club use, according to the Fall River Historical Society.
In 1983, the former unused lower-level Elks bar was known as Down Under — a bar business, Travassos said, owned and operated by the late Mark Thiboutot, then the town’s fire captain, and his late brother. David Thiboutot, who eventually served as the Fall River Fire Chief.
Brandt bought Down Under in 1991 and ran it under this business banner until 1997 when he went down the route of an Irish-themed establishment with a new moniker.
In addition to the St. James Irish Pub, the mixed-use building at the corner of Bank and Purchase streets now consists of four apartments — all on the second floor — and two commercial tenants on the ground floor, including the Pink Café Bean and Whiskey & Steel Barbershop.
Kitchen Dishes Help Keep Business Afloat
Travassos said when he became sole owner of the St. James Irish Pub in 2015, the year Brandt ended his business partnership, he aggressively sought to strengthen the role of his kitchen, which was became known for its variety of chicken wings and drumsticks. and sauces.
He said a focus on an affordable, high-quality menu for lunch and dinner has boosted his bottom line – and especially later during the coronavirus pandemic, when customers had to order food with their drinks. .
“It’s a restaurant, more of a bar,” Travassos said, noting that the menu also includes cod cakes, hot dogs, burgers and chicken breast sandwiches.
He said his kitchen staff now consisted of two part-time cooks and three full-time cooks, one of whom served as head chef.
A basic dress code and live music
For years, the St. James Irish Pub has had a dress code posted on the brick wall next to its downstairs entrance.
Included on the list of no-no’s are colors or motorcycle club vests or other clothing indicating any type of gang affiliation; sleeveless shirts; and badly worn caps.
Live music has returned five nights a week since the lifting of coronavirus-related state restrictions – including authentic Irish instrumentals every Wednesday evening. Thursday evenings are reserved for quizzes.
Travassos says a major challenge he and his former business partner faced, years before COVID-19 took center stage, was adapting to the 2004 state law banning to smoke in bars and restaurants.
The enactment of this law, he says, convinced them to turn their darts room into a kitchen.
“We lost 35% of our business in the first four months,” Travassos said, adding, “This place used to be Smoke City. It was either put in the kitchen or closed.
Customers become friends
Travassos said he and his fiancée, a retired music teacher in the public school system, were looking forward to traveling after the sale of the St. James Irish Pub was finalized.
He said that with his daughter in her senior year at the University of Connecticut, he had come to a point where he felt financially secure enough to retire.
But Travassos said he would make himself available to new owners during their first six to eight months if they asked for help.
And he said he would stop by from time to time to say hello to the people he got to know over the years.
“A lot of those clients are now friends of mine,” Travassos said.
Charles Winokoor can be reached at [email protected]. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today.