On the Clock
An old Irish proverb says of the neighborhood pub: “In heaven there is no beer … that’s why we drink ours here.”In that same spirit, one of the most down-to-earth, friendly watering holes around can be found in the La Cima Mall in Breckenridge – Burke and Riley’s Irish Pub. Stop in for a true-poured Guinness and you’ll immediately notice that co-owners Mark Burke and Jack Riley have captured the community quality that so denotes neighborhood pubs found on street after street in the Old Country.”That’s what an Irish pub should be. It’s all about the locals. It’s all about the people,” reminds Burke. “We wanted to make this a local place.”Whether sitting outside on the sun-drenched deck, or stewing among the warm, rich mahogany of the inside, it’s obvious Burke and Riley have followed through. Even during a Tuesday lunch hour, in the middle of mud season, tables inside and out are taken – and the owners seem to know everybody. They glad-hand table after table, and it’s not just for show. The place is clearly filled with regulars, yet it’s an inviting place at the same time.
“We like being here,” Riley admits. “We got into the business to meet people, to help out the community. So it’s not much of a job to us.”Burke adds: “We wanted to make a place that reminds everybody of back home. It may sound crazy, but we always try to say goodbye and hello to our customers, and we’ve got a great local following.”Tourists will find a welcoming atmosphere for sure (“We meet people from all over the world,” Burke says) but it’s locals the pair target, and who drive the business.Prove you’re a local to Burke, Riley or any of the other friendly staff, and you’ll be invited into the pub’s Claddagh Club – entitling you to 20 percent off all food and beverages all year round. The duo have also been handing out Local’s Appreciation cards for the slow season, which scores an additional 50 percent off liquor, and some deep discounts on food. Happy hour means an even cheaper buzz.
It’s the food that makes a pub a pub – and not a bar – says Burke, and their full kitchen serves up massive plates of homemade grub until midnight every night. The specialty of the house is a fish and chips offering, made from fresh cod hand-dipped in a Coors beer batter. Irish fare, along with American pub grub, fills out their hearty menu.In Ireland, the pub is an integral part of the community, and in that same spirit Burke and Riley both make a point of giving back. Jack was a former pitcher, and Mark has three kids in the School system all interested in sports. Since opening the pub in December of 2004, the two owners have given nearly $10,000 back into the community, mostly through support of athletic programs at the high school and by backing the local American Legion baseball program. They’ve got a golf tournament coming up in September with all proceeds going to American Legion baseball.Along with community, family is traditionally an important element to the Irish, and the two owners got into the business together based on family ties. Jack’s grandfather was close friends with Mark’s father back in the hometown both share of Enfield, Conn. The two’s family connection led Mark to lure Jack to Denver, where Mark was the president of the then-new Johnson and Wales University. When the opportunity came up to open a business here in the High Country both of them jumped at the chance.”We did it to follow a passion, and a dream, and a change in lifestyle,” Burke says. “And it’s working.”
Working for the two has its advantages, too. Both realize that you can’t have a people-friendly pub without friendly people. They’re quick to praise their staff, and even took half of them to Las Vegas last year in appreciation.”I can assure you, anyone who walks in the door of Burke and Riley’s is going to be greeted, seated and made to feel at home,” Burke says. “We couldn’t do what we do without our staff – our great team.””You can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude, and you have to have a great attitude to be truly customer-friendly,” he says.
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