O’Slattery’s Crew (L-R): “Uncle Bobby” Philipchick – craft/maintenance; Sam Saliba – head server; Liam Slattery – owner; Drew Philipchick – head chef; Michael Mulhall – head bartender.
BETHLEHEM — Almost a year and a half after moving to town, opening an Irish pub and family restaurant in Delmar and appearing on the HGTV television show House Hunters, Liam Slattery and his wife Jackie have worked hard to become part of the local community and are preparing to return to HGTV to appear in a follow-up “Where are they now?” episode of House Hunters.
When producers of House Hunters reached out to local real estate agents to do a holiday episode featuring the Town of Bethlehem in 2015, Cathy Cooley from Realty USA on Delaware Avenue asked the Slatterys if they would be interested in appearing on the show.
“She thought we had an interesting story,” said Slattery. “I’m Irish, my wife is originally from this area and we were in the process of opening a restaurant.”
The Slatterys moved into their Cape Cod style home in Fuera Bush, a convenient two and a half miles from O’Slattery’s Irish Restaurant and Pub on Delaware Avenue, from a New York City apartment in 2015. They opened O’Slattery’s in December of the same year, just after their House Hunters episode aired.
“It’s like a dream,” said Slattery. He and his wife, who he met at an NYC restaurant where they both worked while she was in school at Fashion Institute of Technology, are expecting their fourth child this fall and the three they have at home are all under the age of four. Not only does the new home have more space for the young Slatterys to grow, the school district is better and Jackie’s family is in the area.
It is, perhaps, ironic that one of Slattery’s primary goals is to shift the focus of his guests away from the flat screen television hanging behind the bar at O’Slattery’s. “My idea of an Irish pub is not where you see everyone standing behind the bar and just staring at the TV; it’s more of a social thing where you talk and say, ‘How was your day?’”
Rather than a place “where people are just passing the time,” Slattery wanted to open an establishment that provides the same sort of social and community network as the pubs he remembers in his hometown of Kilkenny, Ireland. As a young bartender in Kilkenny, when a patron asked him to turn up the volume on the lone television set in the pub, Slattery recalled, “The owner, who was standing about two feet from me, told him, ‘If you want to watch TV, go home.’”
According Slattery, pubs in Ireland are family-friendly places for the community to gather after church, for local residents to network and catch up on local news over a pint of Guinness. It is that sort of atmosphere that he has worked to build here in the Capital District. “We have a lot of awesome regulars who come in here all the time, and a phenomenal staff,” he said. “I have customers tell me that they won’t go to any other bar alone, because they don’t feel welcome. Here, they can come in and feel comfortable.”
Even though Slattery doesn’t want television to be a focal point of his establishment, he acknowledges that the House Hunters episode was an effective source of free advertising and he’s excited to show producers — and viewers — what has been accomplished since their last visit. “A big part of the reason we did it is because they were going to let us come in here,” he said, sitting at a tall wooden bar table between the copper-edged bar and floor-length windows looking out onto O’Slattery’s sunlit back patio. “It was just a shell at the time,” he recalled. “My wife said they couldn’t come back until we had gotten everything all fixed up.”
Now that they’re relatively settled, Slattery said they’re expanding the menu and want to do more with the outdoors area now that the weather has warmed. “We’re very blessed with good summers and nice weather and so it would be nice to do more outside,” he said.
“We’d like to do a Spring Fest in May,” said Slattery. “Last year we did a Fall Fest, halfway to St. Patrick’s Day, and we closed down the parking lot and had beer trucks and live music all day. We had local Cub Scouts come in to raise money for a trip; we had Irish dancers; we had a pet adoption through Steve Caporizzo, which was great because we had dogs that were adopted that day. It’s nice to be able to do those things because, in Ireland, pubs aren’t all about drinking — they’re more of a social thing.”
He hopes to implement a family movie night in the coming weeks, as well — and allow guests who find O’Slattery’s on Facebook to vote for the movie they would most like to see. When O’Slattery’s developed a St. Patrick’s Day beer in partnership with Chatham Brewing Company, they used Facebook to allow guests to vote on the name — the winning name, submitted by a bar regular, was Bridget’s Red Ale, named for Slattery’s recently deceased mother. A limited run, the supply Bridget’s Red has now nearly been exhausted and Slattery is looking forward to the next collaboration.
Slattery has entertaining stories to tell of times spent as a younger man in the pubs of Kilkenny, at least one of which is pictured in photographs, taken by him, that adorn the walls of his pub here in New York. He does not, however, have any intentions of moving back to the Emerald Isle.
“The Town of Bethlehem, and Delmar itself, have been so great to us,” he said, pointing to bookcases on the wall opposite the bar stocked with books donated by local residents. “The support of the town itself has been phenomenal and so has the staff, they’re all Delmar people from the area. This place wouldn’t have been open for a day without the great staff that we have. We’ve been very blessed.”
“We’re here and we’re not going anywhere,” said Slattery. “We don’t plan on going anywhere.”
O’Slattery’s was the beneficiary of a $30,000 grant made available in 2014 through the town’s microenterprise grant program. The town has secured another round of funding and is accepting applications for grants — up to $35,000 — to start or grow a small business. Information and guidelines can be found on the town’s website: townofbethlehem.org/709/Microenterprise-Grant-Program.