Ah, the luck of the Irish.
Back in December, MacCool’s Public House in Layton was just a shamrock’s width from closing its doors for good.
Struggles for the family-friendly Utah-based chain of Irish pubs had already claimed the lives of the two other two locations in the state — in South Jordan, and at Foothill Village in Salt Lake City — and it was looking like the Layton MacCool’s might be joining those ranks just before Christmas.
Enter Lotus Company, which took over the Layton MacCool’s early last month.
Founded in 2007, Lotus is a Salt Lake City-based real estate development company that in recent years has started dabbling in the hospitality/food and beverage industry. The company is currently developing Ogden River Brewing at 358 Park Blvd. — just west of Slackwater Pizzeria & Pub and Bingham Cyclery — which is scheduled to open in late June or early July. Lotus also has another brewery in the works in Salt Lake, to be called Fife Brewing Co.
Lauren Boyack, vice president of marketing for Lotus, says her company’s purchase of MacCool’s happened quickly. They were approached about buying the restaurant on Dec. 23, and by Jan. 2 Lotus taken possession of the business at 855 W. Heritage Park Blvd., in Layton.
“Basically, they were close to shuttering right before the holidays,” Boyack said. “We did our due diligence, of course, but we all kind of had fond memories of MacCool’s — so we were excited about this opportunity.”
Boyack says her company was “very much attracted” to MacCool’s because it was locally owned and operated, which is a rarity in certain parts of Davis County.
“It is the land of chain restaurants in Layton, so MacCool’s is somewhat of an outlier,” she said.
Doug Hofeling, president of hospitality for Lotus, says closing the restaurant would have meant 17 people losing their jobs the week after Christmas. For that reason, he says, both the former and current owners were motivated to come to an agreement.
“The landlord put us in touch with the owners, that’s where the process began,” Hofeling explained. “They were thinking of closing, they were planning on closing. This is a tough industry, and they’d fought the good fight for nearly 20 years.”
Boyack said that, “against all odds,” the Layton location had remained open after the other two restaurants closed up.
Hofeling says he couldn’t stand the thought of seeing another local brand go out of business, only to be replaced by a national chain or out-of-state company.
“There’s not a lot of local left, so we don’t want to see more of it go away,” he said. “I also love MacCool’s — I spent a lot of time there as a younger man. And when this appeared on our horizon, it was clear it would not survive if we didn’t intervene. So we jumped at the chance, we all had such fond memories.”
Since the purchase, Boyack says they’ve made some cosmetic upgrades to the interior of the restaurant — adding a coat of paint here and there.
And while a lot of the local favorites are still on the menu, Lotus did some tweaking, according to Hofeling.
“The menu needed some love,” he said. “It hadn’t been added to or subtracted from in probably five years, so it was behind the times. We worked hard to give it an update.”
Hofeling admits there were “a couple of sacred cows on the menu we knew we couldn’t touch.” Most notably, they kept the Buffalo Shepherd’s Pie ($15), the Lamb Riblets ($13) and the Fish and Chips ($15). The menu also offers burgers, sandwiches, salads, and a number of “Meat & Potatoes” dishes. There’s also a brunch menu served from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, offering everything from Corned Beef and Hash ($10) to Breakfast Pie ($9), as well as breakfast cocktails like a Bloody Mary or MacCool’s Mimosa ($3 each).
“There’s a lot of value in the MacCool’s brand, so rather than just dispense with the menu, we doubled-down,” Hofeling said.
They also kept most of the staff, including MacCool’s general manager Michael Andersen, who worked his way up from server and has been with MacCools for 15 years. Boyack praises Andersen’s affinity and loyalty to MacCool’s.
“He stuck around and believed in it, and retained a lot of staff members at a difficult time,” Boyack said. “And it takes a special kind of manager to retain people in an industry that is marked by turnover.”
Hofeling says MacCool’s represents something that is not well-represented here in the States — Irish comfort food. And MacCool’s is the only family-friendly Irish pub in Utah, according to Hofeling.
“All the other Irish pubs are bars,” he said. “That’s great, and I don’t disparage them, but you can’t take your family there.”
One big change coming to MacCool’s this spring is al fresco dining. Hofeling says they’re going to begin utilizing the outdoor patio attached to the restaurant.
“They’ve got a beautiful garden patio that they hadn’t had open the past couple of years because that’s where they were putting stuff from the other restaurants they had to close,” he said.
“It was a bit of a graveyard,” Boyack chimes in.
Boyack says there’s “a park and a babbling brook” right next to the patio, which will make for some nice dining options in warmer weather.
“I’m pretty sure it’s the only patio in Layton that doesn’t (abut) a major thoroughfare,” she said.
Hofeling sees the purchase of MacCool’s Public House as a win-win for his company and the community.
“It was just a happy confluence of events that gave us the opportunity to rescue and rehabilitate a local brand,” he said. “There’s a lot of passion behind this restaurant that you just don’t get in a chain.”