New Lynagh’s general manager talks subtle change to the venerable pub
Sitting down with Kate Heiple, the new general manager and longtime bartender at Lynagh’s Irish Pub, it looks like the same, comfortable Lynagh’s that has been a Lexington staple for over three decades. There have been positive changes though, and more are on the way.
Heiple, who has been behind the bar at Lynagh’s for six years, was promoted to general manager in October. The bar had been without a GM for two years, a situation Heiple maintains wasn’t a problem at first due to self-sufficient employees. “Most bartenders had been here forever,” she says. “We knew how the bar worked; we were capable of running it without a lot of supervision. I think it was just easier for the owners to let us do our thing.”
The bar changed hands four years ago when the original owners, John and Gina Lynaugh, sold it to Poor Boys Holdings, a local group of friends and associates who own a handful of other bars in town. According to Heiple, the bosses took notice when things weren’t running as smoothly as they’d like. “Things weren’t getting done as far as communicating with each other,” she said, “between employees and between employees and owners.”
As a remedy, the owners moved Heiple into the long-vacant GM spot. Her new duties include maintaining and ordering inventory, supervising the kitchen and bar, and handling all hiring and firing. This in addition to continuing to work as bartender.
“I’ll probably be here four or five days and nights as manager, plus three bar shifts,” Heiple said. “It’s about 60 hours a week.” Ultimately, she’s hoping to phase out some bar shifts as she acquires new employees and attracts more business. “Once I’m able to hire some people and drive the numbers up, I plan on bartending less. I’ll still be here, but just as manager.”
Considering the drastic increase in hours and responsibilities, it might be hard to imagine why Heiple would be interested in the new position, but loyalty goes a long way.
“I’ve been coming here forever,” she said. “This is one of the first bars I ever hung out in. ... I love this place. I want to see it do well.”
The first thing she did as GM was to write a list of goals. “Places I want to see the bar go,” she said. “Things I want us to do, people I want to hire, money I want the bar to make.”
Heiple points out that Lynagh’s has dedicated regulars who have been coming to the bar for 30 years. Even so, “our clientele changes a lot,” she said. “Being as close to campus as we are, we don’t get much of a college crowd, which is odd. That’s an obvious market for us.”
On this front, Heiple has some ideas, such as being a venue for a local beer pong or dart league one night a week.
She’s also considering a revamped happy hour. “Until about two months ago, our happy hour was from open until 9 p.m., seven days a week. That was implemented in the John and Gina Lynaugh era. We just changed it,” she said. The current happy hour is from 3 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, which is good for attracting the 9-to-5 crowd, but she says a second, daily happy hour might be advantageous for late night revelers.
Another notion she’s entertaining is a shifting beer stock which would play up the rise in popularity of craft beers. “Places like the Beer Trappe have been successful because they have a wide variety of beer, which is big right now. We have pretty much the same beers all the time. We have a couple of seasonals on tap, but that’s it. We need to focus more on rotating our taps and our bottles so we have more to interest people.”
Something else that has been a boon for business is movie night, which is every Tuesday. Right now, Heiple is showing movies that are scheduled on TV due to limitations with the entertainment system. But, if the crowds keep coming, she’ll be purchasing the equipment necessary to play DVDs on every screen. “We started at the beginning of October with AMC’s “Fear Fest.” We just showed scary movies. I’m going to keep doing movie night because sales have improved every single week since I started doing it.”
In addition to all this, she’s thinking of adding a service industry appreciation night, as well as booking more and varied music acts while never charging a cover.
And, of course, Lynagh’s is going to keep making the renowned food that continues to earn them accolades.
“This has always been your neighborhood Irish bar,” Heiple says. “We’d like to focus more on that.”