By Harry Keaney
Offalyman Pat Troy’s effort to relocate his bar and restaurant, Ireland’s Own, two blocks in Alexandria, Va., has unleashed a barrage of verbal torpedoes in the city, including accusations of anti-Irish bias and bigotry.
The Torpedo Factory Condominium Association is opposed to Troy’s application to move Ireland’s Own from North Royal Street to North Lee Street, across from the condominiums.
The condominiums take their name from a former torpedo factory building that is now an arts center.
What has particularly fueled this row is the language that has appeared in flyers opposing the relocation.
The national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Thomas Gilligan, has joined the fray, defending Troy, a longtime Alexandria businessman, by writing to the mayor and members of the city council urging them to reject "anti-Irish bigotry."
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"We object to no one exercising their rights as property owners," Gilligan wrote to Mayor Donley, "but we do object in the strongest terms to what amounts to a smear campaign against Mr. Troy, his patrons and a 20-year reputable record."
A flyer headed "the residences at the Torpedo Factory" states:
€ Ireland’s Own is not just a bar, it is an Irish bar.
€ The proposed move by Ireland’s Own would "affect our property values and therefore our taxes."
€ "Public rowdiness from patrons leaving other bars has forced residents, on numerous occasions, to call the police. As incident reports go up (as they surely will), our resale value will go down."
The flyer also lists other objections to Ireland’s Own intended move, pointing out that there are 18 alcohol-serving establishments within one block of the Torpedo Factory condo, and many within a half block.
Another flyer, the origin of which is not clear, describes the relocation of Ireland’s Own as "a neighborhood nightmare," and, in urging people to attend a recent planning commission meeting, said, "If you don’t show up to protest, you’ll have no one but yourself to blame when your front yard becomes a late-night urinal."
According to the Alexandria Gazette Packet newspaper, a board member of the Torpedo Factory Condominium Association, Magee Whelan, introduced a slogan to a Jan. 13 meeting of the Old Town Civic Association which read, "Noise, Overcrowding, Litter, Urinating & Vomiting (NOLUV)."
The Echo was unable to contact Whelan, or Troy, who was returning from Ireland. However, the Gazette Packet has reported that he is "outraged."
Troy reportedly said that when people moved into the Torpedo condominiums, there were restaurants all around them and there still are.
"So now that the Irish are coming, their property values will go down drastically?" Troy told the paper. "Can you imagine saying that about any other race or ethnic group and getting away with it? This is like the early 1900s when the signs said, ‘No Irish Need Apply.’ "
Whelan, according to the Gazette Packet, stated: "Do not characterize me as objecting to Pat Troy or to Ireland’s Own in its essence at all. I like the place, but the idea of having a destination bar at our front door is something that will affect our quality of life." She cited "people leaving the bar at 2 o’clock in the morning and screaming at the top of their lungs."
A Gazette Packet editorial: "One could argue that residents of Lee and Union streets might conceivably have an argument that there are too many bars in that area already and the tourist season doesn’t need to get any noisier. But to imply that this establishment will somehow be worse and affect neighborhood values because it’s Irish is bizarre indeed."
Meanwhile, the Alexandria Planning Commission has voted 3 to 2 against allowing Ireland’s Own to relocate. The City Council will hold a final vote on the issue this Saturday, Feb. 20.