On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Tom O’Leary opened T.C. O’Leary’s Irish pub at 2926 N.E. Alberta Street in the former Branch Whiskey Bar space. Branch Whiskey closed in November when owner Bruce Kaad retired. Irish-born O’Leary had been Branch Whiskey’s bar manager for two years. He is a trained actor with a long career on stage and TV, including six years in the role of Dr. Brendan Daly on Ireland’s most popular soap opera, “Fair City.” The pub was named following the tradition of many pubs in Ireland – simply with the owner’s surname and first initials. T.C. stands for Thomas Christopher, and O’Leary goes by Tom.
O’Leary’s wife, behind-the-scenes owner Siobhan Feeney O’Leary, grew up just a few blocks away from Alberta Street and has deep roots in the neighborhood. Her late grandfather Neil Kelly moved his remodeling business to the street in the 1960s and her uncle Tom Kelly, who now runs the Neil Kelly business, serves as commission chair for the Portland Development Commission.
“My mom, Anne Kelly Feeney, is the second oldest of Neil and Arlene’s eight children,” said Feeney O’Leary. “Tom Kelly is one of the twins in the eight. He too is a role model for us as he’s carried on Grandpa’s business with great innovation and integrity. My uncle Jim Kelly, youngest of the eight, started Rejuvenation on North Mississippi and Skidmore. He has been another role model and invaluable support to us. My dad, Richard Feeney, was head of government affairs at TriMet for decades, helping to secure state and federal funding for light rail projects. He is also part of the origin story of the pub, since in our early ‘dreaming’ days Tom and I talked about having a bar stool reserved for him so he could hold court and talk politics with friends and neighbors. Although he doesn’t have an official stool yet, he has been to the pub every single day since it opened. Not one day missed.”
After moving to America, O’Leary tended bar at well-know Irish pubs in Manhattan and Los Angeles between acting gigs.
“Tom sees similarities in theater acting and tending bar,” said Feeney O’Leary. “He enjoys bringing people together in an environment where stories are shared. Both experiences provide a departure from everyday life. After T.C. O’Leary’s gets up and running, Tom hopes to dedicate some time to acting again.”
T.C. O’Leary’s serves modern versions of Irish comfort food, like Guinness-braised beef short-rib sandwiches and Irish-style fish and chips. They pour beers from 12 different taps – with local and European beers – and mix drinks from a full bar, offering Irish Whiskey tasting flights.
“We’re open for dinner every night of the week starting at 5:00 p.m. and brunch on the weekends starting at 11:00 a.m.,” said O’Leary. “We’ll start Irish music sessions in January. The goal of the pub is for people to feel welcome and enjoy themselves, much like they would at pubs in Ireland.”
“We got the keys on November 6 and opened the doors on the November 25, so it was a quick turnaround” said Feeney O’Leary. “We were able to do this thanks to the incredible remodeling work done by general contractor Eight Penny Nail. We also had a team of family and friends paint and help with decorating. The focus of our decor is a wall of black and white photos. They aren’t just any photos. They are pictures of loved ones given to us by those who helped us open our doors. We plan on expanding this collection of photos with additions from regular customers. We honestly wouldn’t have been able to open our doors without the help of Bryan Steelman, who is married to my cousin. His success with Porque No is not only a model to us, but he has been a personal mentor to Tom. He is an exemplary business owner in the restaurant industry. His ability to run a successful business while also supporting the surrounding community is a model that Tom hopes to follow.”
For more information, call 503-477-5969 or visit www.tcolearys.com.