Two years ago, there was a bit of a disagreement between the county and residents in Tampa's Westchase community. The Westchase Town Center complex had a new tenant in the form of a traditional Irish pub, but there was a problem — the pub had a permit only to serve beer and wine, and how can you have an Irish pub without whiskey?
This is a common theme when a new bar opens or an existing bar plans to extend its liquor-serving capabilities near a residential area. In many of these cases it seems like the bar in question is far more benign than its opponents make it out to be.
Such is the case with Maloney's Irish Pub, the once-controversial and now somewhat laid-back pub that sits at the corner of Westchase Town Center. At the time, Maloney's was the only game in town. It's likely that Maloney's wouldn't possess the sense of authenticity that it currently does without a full liquor bar.
While I'll admit that I'm sometimes critical of places with the "Irish pub" tag — overused and often lazy branding — Maloney's does have a classic, Irish vibe. From the dark, polished wood tables flanked with Jameson barrels to the etched copper countertops adorned with the expressions "Éirinn go Brách" and "Céad míle fáilte" ("Ireland Forever" and "100,000 welcomes," respectively).
Maloney's even goes so far as to have its own version of a "snug," a cordoned-off, private corner of the bar reserved for groups and parties. Traditionally, the snug was a separate room with its own entrance where women, who were not always allowed in the actual pub, gathered to drink. This snug is part of the rest of the pub, so occupants can remain part of the group, which is really what the pub experience is all about.
For all the nods to Irish heritage, it would be hard to forget you're in the U.S. The music is mostly top 40, and American sports play on the flat-screen TVs behind the bar. A theme shouldn't be a restriction to a bar, but I wished I was hearing the Pogues, not the Black Eyed Peas.
For drinks, there's plenty to choose from. The beer selection doesn't take many chances, but it's not incredibly limited; there are a dozen beers on tap and at least that many in bottles. As in any proper Irish pub, there's plenty of whiskey on hand, but the Irish stuff seemed to be hidden conspicuously in the back row. I did spot some Redbreast, however, which is a favorite of mine. If Scotch is your fancy, a nice Glenlivet display is up front, with the 12-, 15- and 18-year varieties.
Maloney's pulls off the Irish vibe pretty well, but it's not too stuck in its niche to only focus on one thing. Regular events, from acoustic acts inside to a massive indoor/outdoor St. Patrick's Day celebration, keep the scene lively, and it's clearly a good place to watch a big game. Best of all, it's a nice place for a cold pint or warm whiskey, and I think even residents of the nearby neighborhoods could agree on that.
Times correspondent Justin Grant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.