Cincinnati’s Murphy’s Pub
The popular Clifton Avenue pub, Murphy’s, was established in 1969 by two Cincinnati locals. The building that is home to Murphy’s Pub has a lengthy and interesting history. Twenty Three Twenty Nine West Clifton, as well as the rest of the neighborhood, was originally built for residential housing. By the mid-1920s, however, plumbers, barbers, and repair shop operators began to take over the neighborhood. But it wasn’t until Virgil Hahn established Hahn’s Restaurant & Bar in 1938 that Murphy’s original building became an establishment that served alcohol. Twenty years later, the business changed both its owner and the name of the business. Charles Mahoney, an Irishman, took over in 1958 and put his own name on the front door. Even with a new name, the environment of the establishment stayed very similar, a local tavern suitable for everyone but beginning the Irish cultural side of the enterprise. In 1969, Mahoney retired and that’s when the two Cincinnati locals took over the bar. The name changed to Murphy’s pub when Mr. Murphy mysteriously disappeared when visiting Ireland. In honor of his lost partner, the owner officially changed the name of their business to Murphy’s Pub.
Over the last few decades, Murphy’s Pub has had various owners, each one striving to maintain the environment that the business was built on. The pub was originally an authentic Irish bar, but over time it has shifted more towards an Irish-themed bar, although Murphy’s current owners are of Irish heritage. Murphy’s has the look and homey feel of an Irish pub, but meets more of an American standard, serving free hotdogs and popcorn, and playing contemporary music for most of the time. There are also events during the week that cater to the demands of the customers instead of serving the Irish environment, such as giant Jenga and trivia night.
Scattered along the walls are many photographs showing the old Mahoney’s and Murphy’s when they were in business, and there are even some of the previous owners in the pub itself and in Ireland. Apart from the old pictures, the walls of Murphy’s are covered with Irish décor. Looking at the bar reveals a lot of the color green on florescent signs, and there are many road signs that say “Murphy’s” scattered around the pub along with decorative pictures of Irish-made alcohol, shamrocks, and the typical bar advertisements for happy hours and events. There have been several additions to the building over the years, so the pub has plenty of room for its pool tables and several dart boards, and, there is a back patio surrounded by stone walls and green vines, giving an “authentic” Irish feel.
Murphy’s serves typical Irish beers like Guinness and Ireland-brewed Heineken, as well as a roster of seven different Irish whiskeys like Jameson, Tullamore Dew, and Black Bush. The pub has also created several “Irish” signature drinks, like the Irish Car Bomb, which features Guinness Draft, Irish Whiskey, and Irish Cream. These signature drinks are more Irish-themed and non-authentic Irish drinks, like the “Shamrock Bomb,” a blend of UV Blu vodka and Monster caffeine drink, both very common American. And indicating that drinks are more American-oriented than Irish, the so-called “car bomb” drinks are manifestly offensive to the Irish and would never be served in Ireland.
Students of the University of Cincinnati, frequently go to Murphy’s with friends on Fridays and Saturdays for Happy Hour. UC student Ashley Cudnik states, “Murphy’s has a very homey feel to it. My friends and I usually go to Murphy’s dressed very comfortably and to simply to relax and talk with friends after a long week.” The pub is a very convenient location for students and Bearcat sports fans, just minutes from campus, and is surrounded by primarily student homes.
Bartender Stephanie Hamilton, who has worked at Murphy’s for several years, acknowledges that if there is a normal demographic of Murphy’s Pub, it really depends on the day and time of the week. On early weekdays, the clientele is primarily older local residents who come in for a drink and relax for a few hours and that is when she sees a majority of her regular customers. A large crowd of students come on Friday and Saturday nights and after university sporting events. More recently there has been a new sports crowd introduced to Murphy’s, the large numbers from the FC Cincinnati soccer games played in the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. These patterns of pub patrons – older neighborhood residents during the day, younger students on the weekend – are typical of established bars in working-class areas of Cincinnati.
Hamilton states, “Murphy’s strives to create an environment enjoyable for everyone that walks through the door and we work to keep its history and culture alive in the process.” According to her, getting a job at Murphy’s is very difficult and they have extremely low turnover with their employees because “Once you become part of Murphy’s team, you stay on the team and you become family.”