Almost 42 years to the day after Micky’s Irish Pub and Grill opened its doors on S Dubuque Street in Iowa City, a second location will debut roughly nine miles up the road.
On July 11, a Facebook post announced that the long-running downtown institution would expand to North Liberty in August, taking over the space in Penn Landing recently occupied by Rocky O’Brien’s Public House.
Although opening a new restaurant in an ongoing pandemic may seem risky, when co-owners David Stein and Aaron Jennings heard through the grapevine that Rocky O’Brien’s owner Kelly Crawford was looking to sell, they started crunching numbers and everything just made sense.
“The opportunity came to do something out here and we looked at the space and loved the space,” Stein told Little Village. “We think a Micky’s would translate really well in North Liberty, because a lot of people don’t come downtown.”
Fans of Iowa City’s self-proclaimed “most favoritest neighborhood pub” are already buzzing about the opening, speculating about what the new location will have to offer on both the Micky’s Iowa City and Micky’s North Liberty Facebook pages.
“We’ve gotten such a great response so far,” Stein said. “People are really excited for Micky’s in North Liberty.”
Located in the heart of downtown IC, the original Micky’s is a popular spot for college students and townies to catch the game over a basket of fried pickles, a few Scotch eggs, a cold Guinness and their acclaimed Reuben sandwich or fish and chips.
Stein said fans can expect a similar experience at Micky’s North Liberty.
“We want to stay very authentic to what we do downtown out here — we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel,” Stein said. “We want [people] to come out here and say, ‘Oh, that looks similar to downtown.’ The service is really good; the food is really good; and the drinks are just as cold as you would get [in Iowa City].”
This commitment to authenticity also means that wood paneling and “world famous” bingo nights will be plentiful in North Liberty. And luckily for Stein and Jennings, the bar at the former Rocky O’Brien’s has, although perhaps not 150 years worth of character, a similar style of woodwork to the beloved downtown bar.
However, there will be one important difference between the two locations: space.
Generations have passed through Micky’s leprechaun-clad doors since 1980 to be greeted by its undeniably cozy (i.e. squeezy) interior. Although innovative outdoor seating was added to the downtown location after a remodel in 2012, space has remained limited. But space is where the new location in North Liberty shines.
“[We have] two outdoor seating areas in North Liberty, a good number more seats and a bigger bar,” Stein said. “We’ll have pool tables now, that’s a big one. There’s just a little more space.”
Micky’s North Liberty will also boast dart boards and the potential for live music — both of which are impossible in the downtown location.
“Once you put a band in there of any kind, it takes up about 25 percent of the seating,” Stein said. “But hopefully we’ll do live music out here [in North Liberty].”
Downtown Iowa City sees an influx of hungry, thirsty college students every fall, but North Liberty has its own growing hoards to feed. The suburb saw a 7 percent population increase over the last decade, and is home to spacious restaurants like Reds Alehouse, Tin Roost and soon, Field Day Brewing Co., a 20,910-square-foot microbrewery currently under construction and expected to open in 2023.
If the past 40 years are any indication, Stein is confident Micky’s has a place in the future of the CRANDIC.
“We employ a number of kids whose parents worked at Micky’s in the ’80s and ’90s, and people who come to Iowa City and leave Iowa City will remember Micky’s in a positive light.” Stein said. “If you wear a Micky’s shirt in Chicago, you’ll probably get one or two people that say, ‘Oh, I love that place.’ So it’s really stood the test of time.”
Sumner Wallace is the self-proclaimed “most favoritest” intern at Little Village. Home for the summer from Oberlin College in Ohio, she’s here to write, wreak havoc and huck a few Frisbees before returning to her studies in the fall. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 309.