The Irish Pub on St. James’ Place and the Boardwalk, one of Atlantic City’s iconic Irish landmarks, is closed after an intoxicated patron drove his SUV into the pub’s front entrance on Sunday afternoon after the bartender refused to serve him.
The man, identified as Donald Preston, Jr. of Pleasantville, NJ entered the bar a little before 2:30 pm. Cathy Burke, who owns the pub with her husband Richard, told PressofAtlanticCity.com that after Preston was refused service by the bartender, Jack Dziegrenuk, he went to the bathroom, came back to the bar, put his coat on, smiled and waved, and walked out the door.
A few minutes later, the 50-year-old Preston crashed his SUV through the wall to the left of the Irish Pub’s front entrance and into the century-old wooden bar.
One customer suffered a minor injury but refused treatment. Another, who had been sitting at the bar directly in the vehicle’s path, had just stood up and walked away before the crash occurred. Preston also refused treatment and was taken for questioning by police. He has been charged with a DWI and has been issued summonses for “careless driving and failure to stop while entering the roadway.”
Footage from the pub’s surveillance camera shows Preston walk to his car, get in and drive off before speeding back into the frame, onto the sidewalk and into the building.
Richard and Cathy Burke have owned the pub since 1972, but its roots stretch much farther back into Atlantic City history, to the 19th century.
According to the pub’s website, the building, first known as the Elwood Hall, was a speakeasy during prohibition and has survived two world wars and many storms. It hosted luminaries such as Joe DiMaggio, and its edifice is said to be the inspiration behind the red hotel pieces in the Monopoly board game.
The Irish Pub is normally open 24-hours a day. This marks the first time the establishment has shuttered its doors since Hurricane Sandy struck the coast in 2012.
Fire chief Dennis Brooks and Office of Emergency Management Chief Tom Foley were at the scene on Monday checking for structural stability, according to PressofAtlanticCity.com, as were a team of plumbers and carpenters.
Cathy Burke told the site it wouldn’t be too long before the Irish Pub re-opens. “It should only be a matter of days. We just want to make sure everything is cleaned up."