By Derrick Perkins
Pat Troy left the restaurant business Sunday, but not without raised glasses, speeches and a final rendition of “The Unicorn Song.”
After more than three decades running Ireland’s Own, the Irishman-turned-Alexandrian hosted one final blowout to mark the changing of the guard at North Pitt Street restaurant. Scott Holdt, a former employee, and Margaret Keane will take the reins, according to documents filed with the city.
“You can’t believe it, but I came up [to Ireland’s Own] this evening and I was exhausted – I had a tension headache,” said a clearly recovered Troy between greeting and thanking throngs of well-wishers after leading the packed restaurant in song.
“It was moving; it was great. I’m looking forward to [Monday], and my wife especially. No more having to worry or count up the bills,” he said.
His departure from Ireland’s Own was a long time coming. Troy advertised his willingness to sell the popular Old Town institution on its website and by word of mouth for years. He wanted to wait for the right buyer, he told the Times in June, someone who would preserve the restaurant’s celebration of military and public safety officials as well as the table-turned-shrine where former President Ronald Reagan once sat during an unexpected stop in Alexandria.
Troy, who published his memoir “I have a story to tell” nearly a year ago, looked on as a steady string of friends, former employees and local dignitaries, including Mayor Bill Euille, City Councilor Frank Fannon and Ret. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, shared their stories of the establishment and its outspoken owner.
“Pat never does anything low key,” joked former Washington Redskins executive Charley Casserly. “Even if nobody knows him, it doesn’t make any difference.”
Troy also was known for not shying away from a fight with City Hall during his long career as a restaurateur, including as recently as June, when planning department staff posted a sign announcing the possibly pending change in ownership outside Ireland’s Own.
He made on last plea as the festivities wound down Sunday night, calling on city council to restore funding for Alexandria’s bevy of parades. Troy, who also organizes Old Town’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities, said the budget cuts threatened the celebration’s future.
“I leave, but I leave with a heavy heart against the city and the way they’ve been treating me and the Ballyshiners,” he said. “If the [St. Patrick’s Day] parade were to stop, it would be a huge revenue issue for our city. Please, help us.”
And while departing the restaurant business, Troy harbors no thoughts of giving up leading the annual parade. He’s not ready to give that up just yet.