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Lynagh's sold to Poor Boys Holdings

The mere thought of even minuscule change coming to Lynagh's Irish Pub & Grill on Woodland Avenue rattled many of its regular customers.

"We were on pins and needles when the whole change of power thing was in the works," said Jeff Kunsman on Tuesday afternoon. Kunsman worked at Lynagh's while at the University of Kentucky and drops in most days after work for refreshment and to see friends.

After 27 years owning the popular neighborhood pub at the corner of Woodland and Euclid avenues, John Lynaugh and his wife Gina C. Scott-Lynaugh have sold the business to Poor Boys Holdings.

"From 9 o'clock in the morning till 4 o'clock the next morning, seven days a week for 27 years, that's enough time in the bar and restaurant business," Scott-Lynaugh said Tuesday.

Bill Ransdell, former UK quarterback, is one of the principals in Poor Boys Holdings. The new owners are a group of seven friends that includes Andy Hils, who hung out at Lynagh's as a UK rugby player, and Bambi Todd, former Gov. Paul Patton's daughter.

Ransdell started coming to Lynagh's as a freshman, said his wife Diedra, who manages Lynagh's office. He was drafted by the New York Jets in 1987. "Bill credits all his football success to eating O'Rounds," she chuckled.

An O'Round is Lynagh's famous quarter-pound cheeseburger that a 1985 Herald-Leader restaurant review called "the best burger in the Blue Grass."

Poor Boy Holdings owns Austin City Saloon, O'Neill's Irish Pub and Mason Liquors in the Chinoe Shopping Center.

"Lynagh's has been such a staple of Lexington night life, and the best burgers in town, when the opportunity for ownership came up, we jumped at the chance," Diedra Ransdell said.

Located in a strip mall at the corner of Woodland and Euclid, Lynagh's has live music four nights a week. For 11½ years, Lynagh's Music Club, two doors down from the bar, featured regional and national bands like Alejandro Escovedo and the Del McCoury Band and Junior Brown. It was one of the city's major music venues. The club closed in 2002.

"A music club's harder work than a restaurant," Scott-Lynaugh said.

Photos of the artists that played at the club still hang on the walls of the pub. Lynagh's is as down-to-earth as its furnishings: red Formica-topped tables, rusty road signs, a cow skull and stuffed fox sitting on a ledge, and ropes of green holiday lights. Old bicycles that usually hang from the ceiling have been taken down so new electrical wiring can be installed. The bikes will be cleaned and go back up, Diedra Ransdell said.

"We are going to freshen up things a bit, but we're not making any big changes. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The new owners want to maintain the bar's same welcoming atmosphere that helped establish its special identity with customers.

"John and Gina gave UK kids so much over the years, — entertainment, employment and support," Ransdell said.

A job at Lynagh's put Brett Wilson through UK. After graduating, he worked as a natural resource conservation manager for five years, then came back to be the pub's daytime manager. "It's my home away from home," he said.

Jeff Lycan, who was sitting at the bar, drops by most every afternoon after work. He also worked at Lynagh's while at the university. "This is my living room in the afternoon," Lycan said. "Sometimes I see people I don't know. I think, 'What are you doing in my living room?'"

The bar's laid-back atmosphere and proximity to UK attracts an eclectic mix of people. "A lot of UK faculty come over here. You have Ph.D.s, poets, guys in the trades. Everybody's welcome," said Kunsman, a project manager for Dixon Electric, "You need a plumber, an electrician? You need a roof? Come over here in the afternoon, you can find whoever you need," he said.

John Lynaugh used to call his bar "a poor man's university where you could drink, argue and not have to take a test."

The former owners are doing some traveling and are looking for new endeavors, mainly in local theater productions. Lynaugh has a doctorate in theater arts and taught at UK from 1977 to 1981. He enjoys writing and has two plays he's working on.

Scott-Lynaugh has both a bachelor's and master's degree in theater and might become a substitute teacher in Woodford County, where they now live. The couple both are in Actors Guild's production of The Fantasticks in December.

Lynagh's is a place where a lot of war stories are told and a lot of problems are solved, Ransdell said.

"I really think if they would put some of our regulars in charge of the economy, we could solve this whole bailout problem in an instant."