Irish Lion Owner Retires, Workers Face Unemployment

FILE PHOTO — 03172020 – Bloomington, Indiana, USA: Two women sit on a stoop waiting as customers carry out food at the Irish Lion Restaurant & Pub on St. Patrick’s Day during the 2020 Covid-19/Coronavirus emergency, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb gave the order to close all bars and restaurants to in-person dining in Indiana. Many local restaurants and bars have closed and laid off most or all of their workers. Bloomington, which is a Big Ten college town, relies heavily on the service industry to provide jobs. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Staff report

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — May 8, 2024

After serving as a cornerstone of Bloomington’s downtown for over four decades, the Irish Lion Restaurant & Pub is set to close its doors as its owner enters retirement, leaving its loyal workforce with an uncertain future.

In an announcement posted on its website, The Irish Lion disclosed the retirement of its owner, accompanied by plans for a transition to a delivery-only service by May 22nd. The statement reassured patrons that the beloved pub favorites would still be available during this transition period and throughout the summer.

The historic establishment, nestled half a block west of the downtown square, has been a cherished part of Bloomington’s fabric since 1982. Housed in a meticulously restored 1882 vintage brick tavern, the Irish Lion has been synonymous with traditional Irish cuisine, libations, and a convivial atmosphere.

However, amidst the nostalgia and farewells, the announcement carries a somber undertone for the dedicated employees of the Irish Lion. According to social media posts shared by workers, they were informed that they have two weeks left of employment before they must seek new jobs.

One employee, lamented on Facebook, “Well darn. Looking for new employment. It’s been announced after 42 years the Irish Lion is closing shop.”

The impending closure marks the end of an era for Bloomington’s culinary landscape, signaling a transition in the downtown dining scene. The Irish Lion’s location, once part of the historic Levee district, has stood witness to the city’s evolution, from its rough-and-tumble past to its present.

The restaurant’s history intertwines with Bloomington’s narrative, with ties to the Levee’s colorful past as a bustling area teeming with activity, including a nearby train station and remnants of at least one former brothel.

Notably, the Irish Lion’s previous owner, who passed away a few years ago, was embroiled in controversy surrounding a musical note mural on the side of a former music store. The mural became a focal point of a dispute over property rights, culminating in a standoff that captured the community’s attention.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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