Belfast native is ready for St. Patrick's Day

Posted: March 18, 2014

D ONAL McCOY, 47, of Southwark, has owned the Old City restaurant Serrano and the music venue upstairs, Tin Angel, since 2005. The native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, a former bartender, curates the liquor collection for both businesses. He also co-owns, with Neil Laughlin, the nearby bar Sassafras.

Q: Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Do you feel Irish?

A: Northern Ireland is part of the island of Ireland. I can speak the Irish language and was educated by Christian Brothers, so, yes, I'm very Irish.

Q: Many establishments have restaurants and live-music venues. What separates Serrano/Tin Angel from your competitors?

A: Tin Angel, which has been around 21 years, has a certain vibe and soul. We get artists who consistently return who could play big rooms but they like our venue. Many acts have cut their teeth here and have gone on to great success. [Singer-songwriter] Amos Lee was actually a bartender [at Tin Angel].

Q: Serrano diners get preferred seating at Tin Angel.

A: That's one of the things we were striving for to make Serrano more of a destination. The food is fantastic and it's consistently good. The dinner-and-show thing is relevant, and folks come and make a night of it.

Q: What's planned for St. Patrick's Day?

A: We have a couple of guests coming to [Serrano], a few local guys we know. We'll have a former bartender at Tin Angel, John Francis - a singer who now lives in Nashville - perform. He does a nice mix of Irish traditional and contemporary stuff.

Q: Food and drink?

A: We're doing a deconstructed Ulster Fry, which is a breakfast of Irish potato bread, soda bread, mushrooms, sausages and a couple of eggs. A friend of mine from Belfast will be baking the breads, and we serve it with Irish whiskey and Harp Lager. We're also doing a Manhattan, but rather than American whiskey we'll use Irish whiskey and we're calling it a McIlhatton.

Q: What's been the biggest challenge growing the biz?

A: Many music venues are competing for a finite pool of talent and ticket buyers. You have to remain vibrant. We've used social media, and we have also kept the acts varied.

Q: Your customers?

A: The vast majority listen to WXPN, understand music and know what they like. We're probably talking people between 30 and 55. The younger crowd might go to a late weekend show but not dine. Older customers prefer to dine and then go upstairs.

Q: How big a biz is this?

A: About $1 million annually. If you count Sassafras, that brings it to $1.35 million.

Q: Employees?

A: Fifteen, including me.


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