Sometimes something old really can be new again.
Last weekend, the new Kegney Brothers Pub on Main Street in downtown Lynchburg opened its doors to patrons for the first time. The pub filled to occupancy after only 30 minutes, according to proprietor Nicholas Cash.
“Folks were lined up at the opening and stayed until closing,” he said.
The community has awaited the Irish pub’s launch for two years — a wait that has been equally as long for Cash.
“All things have unforeseen surprises,” he said. “But good things come to those who wait.”
Cash’s venture is the second Kegney Brothers establishment to hit Lynchburg — the original Kegney Brothers Saloon opened in the mid-1800s on 12th Street. It closed in the early 1900s.
“At that time, there were probably 30 or so pubs in downtown Lynchburg,” he said.
Cash grew up hearing this story, and seeing the mementos that his grandmother had preserved through the years. After watching the continuing revitalization of downtown, he decided to reintroduce the Kegney Brothers legacy.
“[It’s] not only our family history,” the new proprietor said. “It also speaks to the true and little-known history of downtown Lynchburg.”
The initial development of the pub, which is designed to look like the original Kegney Brothers, took a year; construction began in March 2014.
“We were very meticulous in seeking out the materials we used for the inside and [we] did most of the work ourselves,” Cash said. “All of the finish work is reclaimed architectural salvage material, some of which is from Lynchburg, some from Richmond, others from points in between.”
“It certainly took longer than I would have expected,” Cash said, who attributes the length of time to all of the custom work that was done for the location.
The extra effort paid off. The pub has a rustic feel about it, complete with warm, wooden panels and Edison-style pendant lights and bulbs. Old photographs of the original establishment line the walls and documents, like the first saloon’s liquor license, hang in frames where patrons can view them. Kegney family heirlooms and items from the original pub sit in display cases along one wall.
“We’re celebrating some of the forgotten or unknown history of Lynchburg,” Cash said. “We really want people to know about it, and I think they’ll be interested to see.”
Many already have expressed interest in the pub — they have followed its progress closely for two years and some have even donated furnishings, like the hand-carved Celtic symbols around the pub’s door.
While the final product was slightly over budget, Cash said based on his current projections, he and his investors would recoup their contributions in a few years. Currently, the pub has a part-time staff, which ranges in number from 12 to 24; he also hired an executive chef who moved from Los Angeles.
Kegney Brothers offers a full menu of classic pub fare, including dishes inspired by pubs from across the pond like fish and chips, bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie and corned beef and cabbage. The menu incorporates local produce, and Cash said they plan to use even more product from Virginia-area supplies as they progress.
Along with food, the pub serves a range of Irish whiskies, Highland single malt scotches, American bourbons and whiskeys, as well as a full list of draft, bottled and canned beer from the U.K., Virginia craft beers and standard American domestics. “As a public house, we want to try to have an offering … [where] everybody’s is going to find something that they enjoy,” the Cash said.
In the spirit of the public house, Kegney Brothers added a lower section to their bar top to make it wheelchair accessible. They also added a patio space, which overlooks the James River.
According to Cash, they are the only downtown restaurant to offer outdoor open seating that overlooks the water, but from the sound of it, the pub proprietor does not want to be the only one for long.
“We’re hopeful that this will inspire some other folks to see that now’s a great time to be building and opening businesses in downtown Lynchburg,” he said.
As of now, Kegney Brothers Pub will celebrate its official opening on Saint Patrick’s Day but the bar will continue to be open regular hours over the next month.
Cash said he hopes the pub will become a staple in the community.
“Down the road … if I imagine a [student] at one of the colleges here in Lynchburg has a friend come visit them for the first time … I want them to say, ‘There’s two things we have to do: we have to go …. get a cheesy western and we need to go to Kegney Brothers.’”
The pub is located at 1118 Main Street in downtown Lynchburg. Call 434-616-6691.