CLEARWATER- The industry failure rate for restaurants within the first three years of start up is 60 percent, according to a 2003 study conducted by Ohio State University. So is it the luck of the Irish that on Friday December 1 Tommy Duff's Irish Aviation Pub celebrates their 11th anniversary in business? Or is it the location at 126 Island Way in Clearwater on Island Estates?
"Eleven years seems like yesterday," said Duff. I still feel like the new guy, but more and more I hear people refer to us as an institution in Clearwater. Fact is, people come here to keep from being put in an institution."
Last year Tommy Duff's Irish Aviation Pub won the 2005 small business of the year award from the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce. The pub is known for hosting the shortest St. Patrick's Day parade each year. Pro and college football games are telecast on the pub's 16 screens as they've got the NFL Sunday ticket.
For their anniversary celebration says Duff, "We'll be offering a dinner special priced at $11 for the 11 years we've been in business." On Friday, December 1, prime rib dinners will be served. Saturday's special will be barbeque ribs.
The idea for the pub's theme of Irish watering hole meets those crazy men and their flying machines stems from Duff's personal leanings. "The pub is a cross between my Irish heritage and my aviation background," he said. Duff moved here from St Louis, Missouri 27 years ago after managing customer service for Eastern Airlines.
The connection is obvious upon approach. Tommy Duff's Irish pub has a propeller from a Cessna 310 in the front window while World War II Wind Tunnel test model airplanes hang above the bar, with airline memorabilia and wood framed portraits of military men and women lining nearly every inch of the walls. The menu features Irish soul food like shepherd's pie and fish and chips, along with other dishes like, "little blue buddies", baskets of white castle-style mini onion burgers served with a bleu cheese topping. Pizza, Greek and Caesar salads round out the diverse menu.
An actual seat from a DC3, a tail hook off an A4 and images of famous aviators are included in the mix of the huge collection. Duff pointed out a few of the most noteworthy images, the Wright brothers visiting Ireland; the first Aer Lingus flight attendant, Sheila Broderick; and a portrait of America's World War II 94th Aero Squadron ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, who Duff explained became post war president of Eastern Airlines and owner of the Indianapolis Speedway.
Customers have donated some of the memorabilia along with military portraits. "I started here 11 years ago with about 25 pictures chronicling the history of Irish aviation. Customers started bringing in pictures of themselves and family members in uniform. Now there are about 250 images of military men and women from all of the armed forces," according to Duff.
Other images, surprisingly large head shots, are grouped above the framed military photos. The current president of a local club is prominent. "We're also the quasi club house for the 505 club," explained Duff. Not a military or airline term, 505 refers to a certain time. "Five minutes after five, when your elbows should be on a bar," said Duff.
The pub opens for lunch at 11 a.m. and closes at 2 a.m. Happy hour runs from 4-7 p.m.
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