St. Louis Standards: O’Connell’s Is the House that Jack Built » sarkariaresult

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  • ANDY PAULISSEN
  • O’Connell’s continues to be a mirrored image of its longtime proprietor, Jack Parker.

John Parker can discuss at size about O’Connell’s Pub (4652 Shaw Avenue, 314-773-6600), in regards to the solid of characters who’ve tended its bar and served its burgers, the ragtag crew of regulars who’ve sat at its bar, and, in fact, that one night time Allen Ginsberg got here into the unique Gaslight Sq. location and held courtroom together with his entourage, spinning poetry and saying the realities of the world.


Nonetheless, if there’s one factor he desires you to learn about O’Connell’s, it is that that is the place Jack Parker constructed.

“Each bar or restaurant is a mirrored image of its proprietor,” says John Parker, Jack’s son and now the proprietor of O’Connell’s. “To know O’Connell’s is to know the story of Jack Parker. If he was going to personal this place, he was going to do it his manner.”

Jack Parker could have been the center, soul, captain and proprietor of O’Connell’s for a few years, however surprisingly, he was not the unique proprietor. Neither was anybody named O’Connell. Again within the Nineteen Fifties and ’60s, town’s Gaslight Sq. neighborhood was thought-about to be the premier leisure and nightlife hub of St. Louis, with bars, eating places and golf equipment populating the realm close to Olive and Boyle within the Central West Finish, making a district many thought-about to be the Greenwich Village of the Midwest. Two businessmen needed to capitalize on the realm’s reputation by opening an Irish bar, so that they reached out to Jack Parker’s mother and father’ au pair, who was from Eire, to seek the advice of on the place. She proved so instrumental within the growth of the bar that the boys needed to call it Rita Ryan’s after her. She insisted that was a foul concept, and informed them to call the bar after Daniel O’Connell, who was thought-about one among Eire’s liberators. They took her recommendation, and opened their bar, O’Connell’s, in 1962.


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  • ANDY PAULISSEN
  • O’Connell’s, named after one among Eire’s founding fathers, is a quintessential Irish pub.

From the get-go, Jack Parker was a presence at O’Connell’s, pouring drinks, grilling up burgers behind the bar and usually working the place. It was a departure for the south St. Louis native, who used to promote automobiles on South Kingshighway and run round Gaslight Sq.. His curiosity within the arts was sparked by his former roommate, artist Ernest Trova, who used to blast opera and experiment together with his craft of their meager arts loft house, the place Jack used to sleep on the ground on an outdated mattress. Obsessed with artwork, music, poetry, literature and the whole lot in between, Jack Parker introduced that spirit with him to O’Connell’s and cultivated the bar as a welcoming area that was inclusive of everybody.

After a number of years, the boys who began O’Connell’s needed to get out of the enterprise and bought the bar to Jack for $1,500, an quantity it took him three years to pay again. Nonetheless, together with his educated bookkeeper mother serving to him handle the monetary aspect of the enterprise and his pure penchant for creating group — plus making darn good meals — Jack Parker was capable of translate that funding into success, finally transferring the bar to its present residence on South Kingshighway in 1970, following the decline of the as soon as vibrant Gaslight Sq..

In its new digs — simply as in its outdated ones — O’Connell’s grew to become much less in regards to the bar itself and extra in regards to the motley crew of characters that stuffed its 4 partitions. There was (and nonetheless is) Lenard Voelker, the bartender who got here in at some point as a alternative for his predecessor and was requested by Jack, “Do you’re employed for me?” adopted by, “Alright, how a lot am I paying you?” Nora McDermott, the server from Tanzania, additionally began within the Gaslight days and labored alongside Jack for many years, as did Pink Garner and Ken Thone, two longtime bartenders that had been thought-about masters of their commerce earlier than anybody dared utter the phrase “mixologist.” However it wasn’t simply the employees who animated the bar; Jack Parker was decided to create an setting that made everybody really feel comfy, it doesn’t matter what stroll of life they got here from.


“Again within the Nineteen Seventies, there was R&F Spaghetti throughout the road and Banner Iron Works throughout the alley that went behind the constructing,” John Parker explains. “The R&F and the Banner guys would are available in for lunch to eat roast beef sandwiches and drink a pitcher of beer, however the symphony guys and the artists adopted us right here from Gaslight Sq., so we had this mixture of the humanities group and the south-city working class. We might have regulars who had been iron employees sitting subsequent to some man who performed oboe within the symphony. The combination was pure, and that continues to at the present time.”

When Jack Parker handed away final June, the keys to O’Connell’s had been handed to John, who is aware of that it is his mission to maintain the bar’s spirit alive as a technique to honor his dad. He has a few plans up his sleeve — a much-needed POS system, an old-school Metropolis Museum-style set up of an vintage iron archway and a sculpture meant to honor founder Bob Cassilly, to call a number of — however, except for a deep clear when he reopened the doorways final August following his dad’s passing, he insists his technique is to remain out of the best way of O’Connell’s success.

“In the event you work right here you’ve got seen a whole lot of change, however if you happen to’re a buyer, nothing’s modified,” John Parker says. “Every part is similar, the moose remains to be there; nothing has modified. That’s the essential concern I hear from everybody. They all the time say, ‘Oh, I am so glad you’re open once more,’ and I do know earlier than they are saying the rest to inform them to not fear as a result of I am not going to vary a factor.”


Parker is comfortable together with his function as steward of O’Connell’s, and has spent the previous 12 months navigating not solely the grief of his dad’s passing but additionally the challenges the pandemic has thrust upon his business. Insistent on weighing public well being and security above all different issues, he is been fierce in his dedication to preserving O’Connell’s a protected place for his company, and feels that his insurance policies are consistent with the bar’s solely rule, which his dad established a few years in the past: You will need to behave in a civilized method and be courteous of your fellow patrons. He admits it hasn’t been simple, however he’s dedicated to preserving O’Connell’s going for the lengthy haul. What makes it simpler is realizing that he’s not alone in his quest, however that he’s aided by the reminiscence of his dad, which nonetheless animates the place, in addition to the staff and company who’ve made it what it’s.

“O’Connell’s Pub is made by the individuals who come right here, and you may’t purchase that or make that artificially,” Parker says. “That is who actually owns the place. It is intangible, and you may’t personal that vibe. It is what makes this a sacred home — one that’s sacred to me not simply because we’re the most effective bar or have the most effective burger on the town, however as a result of it is the home that Jack constructed. It is the reflection of him, and I’m going to do what I can to honor that for him.”


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