Irish Isle seeks new owner

By Ryan Cornell

MIDDLETOWN — The Irish Isle is up for sale, but rest assured its fish and chips and shepherd’s pie won’t be leaving Middletown anytime soon.

The restaurant and pub, which owner Brian Coughlin purchased for $129,000 in 2003, has been on the market for the past two weeks. Its listed price is $350,000.

Coughlin, 63, said he wants whoever buys it to keep the business as it is.

“It’s going to be sold as an Irish pub and if it doesn’t sell, one of my daughters is going to move back [from Oregon] and take it over,” he said.

“It’s unique and all of my regulars want this to stay as a pub, and that’s all.”

As for Coughlin, he’s planning to move 2½ hours south to Roanoke, where his fiancee recently landed a new job and they purchased a home.

“It’s been a long, long time we’ve been thinking about moving, but I always said I would do 10 years here,” he said. “And then the fact that [her] job came out before, that was the deciding factor.”

He said he wants to continue performing Irish music in the city’s multiple venues and might even open up another restaurant, joining the two Irish pubs already in Roanoke.

“It’s a very nice city,” he said. “Not too big, you can get from one side to the other in 25 minutes, and there’s a lot of stuff going on music-wise.”

For the past decade, the Irish Isle has fed Battle of Cedar Creek reenactors, St. Patrick’s Day revelers, National Sheepdog Finals visitors and anyone else searching for Guinness on draft.

Coughlin said his decision to sell the restaurant was made about two years ago and wasn’t influenced by the closure of the neighboring Wayside Theatre or any other circumstances in town. He said it’s the only Irish pub within a 40-mile radius — with Warrenton being the closest spot — and draws patrons from Front Royal, Culpeper and West Virginia.

“So I never ever had to rely on Middletown,” he said.

Originally from Limerick, Ireland, Coughlin moved to the U.S. in 1973 and toured the country for years as a full-time musician.

After purchasing the Main Street building and spending five months renovating it, including stripping pink paint off its brick walls, he opened the Irish Isle on Feb. 6, 2004. Coughlin said he and his six employees will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in two weeks. He said he intends to stay through St. Patrick’s Day.

“If I could transport this building, I would be really happy because I love this building,” he said.

The business is being sold by Suzanne Conrad, an assistant broker from Adams Nelson & Associates. Coughlin said he hasn’t been approached by any buyers yet.

“People don’t have as much money to go out anymore,” he said. “But I do see things picking up this year because of the fact that the Wayside [Inn] now has actually been bought and the college is expanding.”

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com