New pub: Irish, intimate, classy, affordable

Co-owner of Naggy McGee’s Irish pub Eric Wilmot leads a toast with his first customers minutes after opening the doors of the establishment on its first day of business. The group was drinking the first Irish car bombs served at the bar. An Irish car bomb is a drink that’s a mixture of Guinness Stout, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Irish whiskey.


What’s in a name?

Naggy McGee? Must be a famous lad or lass from Ireland, right?

Why else would you choose that for a pub name? Well…

The idea for the name was born a year ago at Coors Field in Denver. Eric Wilmot and Vanessa Funches were at a Colorado Rockies baseball game, and Wilmot admits no food was accompanying the steady stream of beer filling his stomach. While walking around the stadium, Funches decided she was going to do something about Wilmot’s unbalanced diet and dragged him to a food vendor. That’s when the old-timer who waited on them, recognizing Wilmot was being forced to do something against his wishes, referred to Funches as “Naggy McGee.”

It was good for a laugh then and good for a Irish pub name now.

It was one of the first names the duo considered for the pub, and they tried to talk themselves out of it, but Wilmot and Funches kept coming back to it. Finally, they stopped fighting it. The name is distinct. There are no other bars or restaurants named Naggy McGee’s Irish Pub, they said, and because they trademarked the name, it will remain that way.

Irish, intimate, classy and affordable.

That’s the kind of pub Eric Wilmot and Vanessa Funches said they envisioned three years ago when they conceived their idea for a business venture.

And that’s what they hope customers will be saying now that the doors are open to Naggy McGee’s Irish Pub, 359 Colorado Ave., suite 103.

Traditional Irish beer and food will be staples, but Funches said the meaning of pub is key in understanding what they want Naggy McGee’s to be. Pub is short for public house, Funches said, and if you go to a pub in Ireland, you’ll see they are about people gathering and enjoying each other’s company.

“It’s not always about drinking, but community,” she said.

Of course, buying any of their 14 beers on tap, many of them Irish and English, or ordering from their Irish menu will be needed for Wilmot and Funches to pay the bills. That fact is not lost on them, especially in light of the current economy and the history of the suite they reside in.

Several restaurants have opened and quickly closed in recent years at the corner of Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, where Naggy McGee’s resides. The Cavett House, where Funches was manager, ended a two-year run Feb. 7, 2009, and La Louisiane Cajun Seafood, opened there two weeks later but closed in October.

Wilmot, 39, and Funches, 31, claim they’re capitalized well enough, with a rainy day fund in place, to endure an extended rough stretch if necessary, and opening during an economic downturn will force them to run a lean, efficient operation from the outset.

The poor economy actually helped limit start-up costs, as Wilmot said the closing of other restaurants put equipment on the market at much lower prices than they could have gotten three years ago.

“There’s more equipment and supplies around now than has been around in the last 10 years,” he said.

Wilmot and Funches are banking on their backgrounds in the restaurant and bar business. Wilmot, a Boston native, said he has managed restaurants in Boston, and he worked 10 years for the Rockslide Brew Pub, 401 Main St., including seven as manager.

Funches said, in addition to her Cavett House stint, she managed Le Rouge Restaurant and Piano Bar, 317 Main St., for a year.

Between the two, Wilmot said, they have 38 years of experience in the business.

“I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 14,” Funches said. “I grew up in bars and restaurants. The only thing I haven’t done in a restaurant is own one.”

The last sentence led Wilmot to chime in, “Me, too.”

He added, “We’ve been doing it for other people our whole lives. It was just time to jump off the cliff and do it ourselves.”

Gaining much of their experience in the Grand Valley should be to their benefit as well.

“We understand what people in Grand Junction want and need and expect,” Funches said.

They expect the bar side of the business to be the greater money maker, but they promise good beer will have good food to match. Be it corned beef or bangers and mash, Wilmot said the food will be home-made, nothing frozen.

“In Ireland, the word pub is synonymous with good food. They go together,” he said.

Good food, drink and people also need a good setting, which is why Wilmot and Funches had the suite stripped to the studs and rebuilt nearly everything. The bar has been moved and seating changed as the two sought a more intimate feel for the large space.

When all is said and done, Funches hopes the impression customers get is Naggy McGee’s is it is classy and affordable, or as she says, “affordable class.”


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