Four Limerick sisters, the owners of Culhane’s Irish Pub in Atlantic Beach, Florida, are “embarrassed and sad” that due to city laws there will be no Irish tricolor hanging outside the bar on St. Patrick’s Day.
Culhane’s Irish Pub in Atlantic Beach near Jacksonville, is owned by sisters Lynda, Michelle, Mary Jane, and Aine. Ordinarily there is an Irish flag hanging outside their bar, directly next to the American flag, to draw customers in but all this changed on February 20th when Aine saw men in uniform approach the bar.
Aine told IrishCentral a Greek restaurant up the street had been told to take down their national flag due to a local ordinance. When their Greek neighbors pointed out the Irish pub was also displaying their national flag the city of Atlantic Beach code officers dutifully threatened the Culhane’s with a fine.
The part-owner said “It’s sad. It’s a sign of freedom to fly your flag. It’s a shame. It’s supposed to be a celebration.”
They were told to take down their Irish flag or face a fine. Aine said “I don’t want to get on the wrong side of the City. We’ve always had a good relationship and we need the permits for the tents we set up outside the bar for our St. Patrick’s Day party”.
Weirdly this St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s national holiday, their party will not include a tricolor.
Aine told IrishCentral “It was sad. We live by the law we’re not going to break the law so it is sad for us.
“We’re upset about it. We live in America. That’s suppose to mean something. It’s supposed to be the land of freedom and a land of opportunity”.
Michelle, one of the four sisters, has applied for a temporary permit to fly the tricolour for St. Patrick’s Day. She said “We’ll wait and see and say a prayer”.
Earlier this week Maria Mark, Mayor Pro Tem for the city of Atlantic Beach, agreed that the law, which states that no flag except the American flag, may be displayed outside a business is an oversight and would be addressed, but not in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
The Culhane girls believe in the “American Dream” they realized their own dream when they opened their authentic Irish bar and restaurant.
Back in 2005 the four sister from Shanagolden, County Limerick, decided to fulfil their life long dream, risk everything they had and open an Irish pub in Atlantic City, Florida.
The first of the four Limerick sisters had arrived in the 1990s, when she won a Green Card, and slowly the rest of her sisters followed. They settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but soon two of the sisters, tired of the harsh winters, headed south.
Aine said when they arrived to Florida they said “This is it. We’ve got to move here.”
Once the four sisters were reunited in Florida, in 2005 they decided it was time to fulfill their dreams.
“We always talked about opening an Irish pub and eventually decided, enough talk lets actually do it,” Aine told IrishCentral.
Aine said their upbringing on their father’s farm gave them the tools and experiences necessary to achieve their little slice of the “American Dream”. The girls farming father preached “nothing is free” and the girls were taught their strong work effort from a young age. Also years working in their uncle’s restaurant gave them a deep understanding of the drink and food trade.
The lesson they stand by is to “stick to the Irish ways” whether it’s food, music or alcohol. This mantra seems to work.
Since their story, about the Irish flag exploded in the press earlier this week Aine said their customers have been very supportive. Aine’s even worried they might be starting a letter campaign.
With or without an Irish flag Culhane’s Irish pub and their loyal customers will be partying hard this St. Patrick’s Day.