Foley’s New York Bar and Restaurant banned the singing of the famed Irish ballad “Danny Boy” back in 2008 for various reasons, such as it ranks among the 25 most depressing songs of all time and is overplayed at the expense of other great Irish songs, not to mention that its lyrics were written by a man who never set foot on Irish soil.
However, a visit from a Northern Irish businessman a few months ago had the owner of Foley’s, Shaun Clancy, rethinking his decision.
On Monday, the first arrival of Danny Boy Whiskey to the U.S. was welcomed with open arms in the bar that once banned the song. Peter Lavery, proprietor of the Danny Boy Company, traveled with the first box of his premium Irish whiskey to New York and is working tirelessly with U.S. distributors Total Beverage Solution Company to have the Danny Boy brand on the top shelf of all U.S. bars.
Lavery, once a bus driver in Belfast, won $16 million in the lottery in 1996 and has since used his good fortune to become a leading businessman in Northern Ireland. He also contributes to community development projects.
Lavery, from Belfast, told the Irish Voice at the launch that he came to New York last year with the intention of launching his Danny Boy Whiskey in the U.S. market. A meeting with Board Bia (the Irish Food Board) in New York informed the savvy businessman about a small bar in midtown that banned the song Danny Boy from its premises.
“When I heard that Foley’s had banned the song from the bar I thought I’d come down and have a drink,” laughed Lavery. Luckily for Lavery, Clancy was in the bar that day.
“I brass necked it,” joked Lavery. “I came for a drink and asked for Shaun. He was just back from Florida and he was in town. I gave him my card and he started to laugh. I knew then I was on a winner.”
The pair hit it off, and after a few jokes back and forth Clancy agreed to allow Danny Boy back in his bar.
“We are thrilled that the makers of Danny Boy Whiskey have chosen Foley’s as the first pub in America to carry its product,” said Clancy. “I am just as thrilled to meet and work with Peter Lavery, who has used his good fortune to build cross-community relationships in Belfast. In this way, we can have a bit of fun and help others.”
Six few years ago Lavery, who enjoys a glass of whiskey himself, bought out the Danny Boy Collection and trade name. Danny Boy Whiskey is made at the Cooley Distillery on the picturesque Cooley peninsula in Co. Louth. The distillery produces Danny Boy 15-Year-Old Irish Malt Whiskey and Danny Boy Premium Blended Irish Whiskey. Both products consist of a rare whiskey carefully selected from stock set aside for its outstanding character.
A portion of the proceeds from the sales of Danny Boy Whiskey will go right back into the Northern Irish community through various cross-community projects and charities. Lavery set up the Rita Charles Trust, in honor of his late parents, which to date has distributed over $1 million to numerous community projects in disadvantaged areas of Northern Ireland.
For the past decade, the trust has organized a unique Belfast-wide Christmas dinner in one of the city’s leading hotels for up to 400 senior citizens from Unionist and Nationalist areas. Foley’s is located at 18 West 33rd Street, across from the Empire State Building.