Matt Nunn admits that as a guy who wants to own a bar, he’s not that unique.
But the fact that he and his wife, Ashley, have opened the first bar in Scott County since at least Prohibition — and it’s modeled on an Irish pub — is a bit unusual.
On the Aug. 20 one-month anniversary of the Slainte Public House, aka The Pub, he joked over a glass of bourbon, “We are the oldest bar in Georgetown.”
The opening of a bar at 320 E. Main Street is a milestone of sorts for Georgetown which has gone from dry to moist to wet since 2009, said city clerk Tracie Hoffman, who issues alcohol licenses.
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There are several chain restaurants in Georgetown. There’s an Applebee’s near Walmart, and the recently opened Roosters, which shares a parking lot with Kroger. Those places have significant space devoted to a bar. But, Hoffman said, the pub is the first to serve no food at all.
That’s because until January, establishments serving alcohol within the city limits had to have a particular seating capacity and also had to have a percentage of their overall sales coming from food. But state law changed and bar licenses are now issued by city population. The Pub was the first to apply for one of 13 licenses now available in Georgetown, said Hoffman.
The creation of the pub came as a bit of a surprise to the Nunn’s fellow churchgoers at Great Crossing Baptist Church, first open in Georgetown in 1785. Elijah Craig, who some claim invented bourbon, was perhaps fittingly the first pastor at Great Crossings.
“When we told people we were opening a bar people were like, ‘What?’” said Ashley Nunn, the mother of two. People at church expressed their concerns in a kind way and were mostly concerned about the family taking on such a huge task, Matt Nunn said.
They got a bank loan for the building and are putting in countless hours managing the pub, making sure the right people are hired and trained properly.
In addition to running the bar, Matt Nunn is a member of the Kentucky National Guard and a corporate security manager for Toyota Tsusho America. Ashley Nunn works as a dental hygienist.
Opening a bar has always been a dream for Matt Nunn. Ashley Nunn wasn’t really on board until the two celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary with a trip to Ireland. There, they went on a tour of authentic Irish pubs and Ashley Nunn finally understood what her husband had been talking about all these years.
Matt Nunn envisioned a the pub becoming a place where people come to debate politics and discuss topics of the day. The visit to Ireland showed Ashley Nunn that atmosphere, the pub as a community gathering place not a beer bong, frat house kind of place.
To that end, the bar is filled with conversation nooks, overstuffed chairs and tables for board games or cards.
Eventually the upstairs will be open and available for reservations by larger parties. There is no food, but food trucks are frequently parked outside. And an unexpected draw, judging from the street facade, is the lovely garden with a fountain, tables and rocking chairs.
The building itself, constructed in 1793, adds another layer of history. George Algair, who lived in the house in the 1850s, was the chairman of the Independent Ticket. That group opposed efforts to outlaw alcohol in town. Ann Bevin, a Scott historian, uncovered a quote from Algair. “Give ‘em license, for they drink with or without it.”
The pub is adjacent to the Georgetown College campus, but Matt Nunn said he’s seen only a few college students there. Anyone 21 or over is welcome, he said. And he thinks business, which has been robust on Friday and Saturday nights, will pick as Irish transplants to Central Kentucky hear of the pub and claim it as their own.
The pub joins other new downtown Georgetown eateries, including Christie’s Restaurant & Martini Bar, 115 North Broadway, Galvin’s, a sport bar and restaurant at 135 E. Main St., Red State Taps, a beer and barbecue place at 123 Opera Alley and Local Feed, a home-to-table restaurant and bar at 214 S. Water St., all within a few blocks. The city may have enough establishments for its first pub crawl.
And it would be fitting if started at The Pub, said Matt Nunn. A gate leading from the street goes directly to the back garden where once upon a time there was a communal spring. And, he said, it was aptly known among the locals long ago as “the watering hole.”