By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — Brian Farrell is buying out his three partners at the Claddagh Pub and will continue operating the landmark bar, restaurant and catering hall as its sole owner, ending a year-long effort to sell a last vestige of the city’s fading Irish culture.
A Licensing Board that is itself under new management last night approved Farrell’s application to remove his partners from the bar’s liquor license, a step that needs the approval of the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.
Also last night, the board gave Brenda Villanova and her husband and daughter an approval they need to sell Rio’s Bar and Grill on Appleton Street to another owner who would operate it as the Spade Lounge. The ABCC has blocked the transfer of the liquor license until the Licensing Board clarified confusion about which family members own and manage the bar, which it did last night.
Also last night, the board delayed action on an approval needed to sell a third prominent bar in the city, D’Todo’s on Broadway, which is owned by City Councilor Oneida Aquino.
The Licensing Board delayed action on Aquino’s request to renew the expired liquor license for D’Todo — also called D’Cache — at the request of her attorney, Sal Tabit, who asked for the delay because Aquino is out of the country. The bar has been closed for several months.
At the Claddagh, Farrell would take over the ownership from partners John Ryan, Paul Morton and James Kearney in exchange for giving up his interest in The Irish Cottage in Methuen, which the four also own together. No money would be exchanged as part of the swap.
When the deal for the Claddagh is complete, Morton will sell what would then be his one-third interest in The Irish Cottage to Kearney and Ryan for $180,000, reducing the restaurant’s ownership from four men to two.
The four men had a $250,000 offer for the Claddagh pub and catering hall last year. The deal fell through, and Farrell said he began rethinking the decision to sell after Daniel Rivera defeated Mayor William Lantigua in November.
“With the positive stuff in Lawrence — Daniel Rivera’s election as mayor — I’m more confident we can get the city going again,” Farrell said last night. “William Lantigua brought nothing but negative attention and press to Lawrence and that had a carry over effect to every business in Lawrence.”
Lantigua could not be reached after the Licensing Board meeting.
Farrell said he recently installed 17 television sets in the Claddagh to increase its appeal among sports fans. On Sunday, the bar will sponsor its 21st annual four-mile road race, which will benefit the Barry Kara Foundation, a non-profit that serves Greater Lawrence youth.
Last night’s Licensing Board meeting was the second chaired by Pedro Torres, who besides being the board’s chairman, is also its newest of its three members.
Rivera named Torres to replace Mayra Lantigua, the former wife of the former mayor, who served on the board for nine years and chaired it for the last year.
At his City Council confirmation hearing, Torres, who is general manager at Napolitano Marble and Granite, said he would be an activist member of the board. Last night, he said he was following through on the promise by visiting dozens of local restaurants to check that their licenses are current.
He said in just two weeks, he found 20 restaurants operating with expired licenses, including Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King “and a bunch of smaller businesses.”