So it makes perfect sense that Irish Pub in Lewisburg, W.Va., an establishment so heavily New Orleans-themed that you half expect a second line or Mardi Gras parade around the block to erupt at any moment, to be able to carve out a niche, about 10 miles away from the New Orleans Saints’ training camp home at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
A number of famous Louisiana treats and seasonings line a shelf behind the bar and red beans and rice is on the menu.
On the wall opposite the bar are framed posters that scream New Orleans (Fats Domino, Jazzfest) and in the back room with the dart boards, framed front pages from The Times-Picayune newspaper heralding the Saints’ Super Bowl victory.
And in the restroom, there even is a mirror that was given to the establishment by Finn McCool’s.
Irish Pub is as authentically New Orleans as it gets in these parts, as well it should be. See, owners Patrick O’Flaherty and Andrea Izzo lived in New Orleans for about 20 years, and Patrick and his brother operated O’Flaherty’s Irish Channel Pub on Toulouse Street in the French Quarter up until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and O’Flaherty’s closed.
Katrina didn’t force the duo to relocate and open Irish Pub almost eight years ago; the timing purely was coincidental.
But it proved to be the perfect time for them to open the business in Lewisburg.
“Lewisburg, interestingly, has a fair amount of people who are familiar with New Orleans, who have lived there. So everything New Orleans is fantastic. We do a little Mardi Gras celebration every year and it’s packed and everybody dresses up in costumes.”
The union among O’Flaherty, Izzo and Lewisburg actually goes back longer. The two formerly were married, and O’Flaherty said his mother-in-law went to school in Lewisburg. He used to visit for holidays and sometimes came with a band with which he played and toured.
“People would tell him me, ‘You shouldn’t be touring, you should open up a pub here,’ ” he said. “That’s how it happened.”
With that idea proposed, O’Flaherty and Izzo planted the seed, nurtured it and have watched it become what it is today.
And, yes, a little bit of New Orleans fits nicely inside the city limits of Lewisburg.
“Really, Lewisburg is a lot more like New Orleans than you would think because of the atmosphere,” Andrea said. “People are really friendly and everybody is kind of laid back, and it’s not … you know, (like) in cities where there’s a big rat race and everybody is trying to get ahead and stab each other in the back.
“There’s nothing like that here. So the feel of Lewisburg is very much like New Orleans.”
Her sister, Laura Izzo, who also works at Irish Pub, agreed.
“I think it’s equally Irish and New Orleans, because there are some commonalities in a sensibility about a traditional Irish pub,” Laura said. “It’s very welcoming. It’s really built around community and families and music.
“It’s very well-received. There’s quite a few people in town that have some kind of tie from some time with New Orleans. New Orleans kind of spreads around really well.”
Especially nowadays in West Virginia. Especially with the Saints coming to town.
“It’s sort of like a dream,” Andrea said. “I never would’ve guessed in a million years that the Saints would end up here, where I am. We can’t even get them on TV, which is sad. Maybe that’ll change now.”
“I like the Saints,” O’Flaherty said. “We’d go see games every year. The Saints kept New Orleans together after the hurricane was over. Thank God that they stayed in New Orleans.
“I think it’s great for here. Everyone is excited for it. It’s great for the area. Nobody is actually believing that this is happening.”
It’s happening, and it’s just as real as a pub that’s nothing less than a slice of New Orleans planted in the middle of a West Virginia city.