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Commons restaurateurs seeking right ambiance, staff


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While green beer won’t be flowing this St. Patrick’s Day at the planned Irish/British-themed eatery in downtown Columbus, co-owner Tim Rohrer assures his future customers the wait will be worthwhile.

The opening of Jordy McTaggart’s in the Commons likely will be in early to mid-April. It was originally scheduled for mid-March.

“We just don’t want to rush the project and make mistakes,” said Rohrer, a Nashville resident.

The restaurant and bar was selected last October from four proposals submitted to the Columbus Redevelopment Commission. It will move into The Commons area formerly occupied by Scotty’s Burger Joint and Detour American Grille & Bar.

On Dec. 10, the Columbus City Council approved a 10-year lease for Jordy McTaggart’s. At that time, Rohrer said up to a half-million dollars will be spent for interior improvements.

Rohrer and his business partner, David Baker of Shelby County, have planned to open an Irish-English pub for more than two years. They have researched more than 50 establishments in the eastern U.S. as far away as Charleston, S.C.

“When you see what’s working elsewhere, you reprocess it and apply it to your own facility, location and concept,” Rohrer said. “It gets the creative process going.”

Many of their ideas were handed over to interior designer Bruce Pollert, president of Pollert Design Associates Inc., in Columbus.

“We haven’t made a lot of permanent decisions,” Pollert said. “But there are a lot of possibilities, and many ideas are going back and forth.”

It is Pollert’s responsibility to ensure Jordy McTaggart’s will have a different look and feel from anything that has been in the Commons in the past, Rohrer said.

Current plans call for refurbishing the bar that was brought into the facility for Scotty’s, redesigning entrances and exits to make them less confusing and allowing enough space to comfortably seat 200 patrons, Pollert said.

“We’re looking at features like interior brick and a nice walnut paneling,” Rohrer said. “We’re also working with Bruce to get the lighting correct.”

The owners also are negotiating with a Brown County company to create custom-made walnut tables for the establishment.

“I think just the core of this place will be stimulating and also tell the story of the Irish pub,” Pollert said. “But Jordy McTaggart’s will be doing other things. We also want the interior to reflect that.”

Those other things will likely include live, but low-volume, acoustic music performances, Rohrer said.

Besides finalizing design plans, Rohrer and Baker are recruiting members for their management team.

Rohrer, whose 25-year career in restaurants includes owning and operating three Montana Mike’s Steakhouses with Baker, said he has several contacts that will help him hire the 75 to 80 employees he’ll need to operate Jordy McTaggart’s.

“Several have approached us who want to be on our team,” Rohrer said. “We will start hiring our crew in mid-March.”

Although Pollert’s responsibilities are confined to design work, he agrees with Rohrer the crew is an integral part of every successful Irish pub.

“For this type of venue, it will always be the people who will make the real difference,” Pollert said.

The necessity of finding the right employees was a key reason why both Rohrer and Baker didn’t want to rush to get Jordy McTaggart’s open by St. Patrick’s Day, according to Columbus Redevelopment Director Heather Pope.

“They want to get the right people in there and to have the opportunity to train them properly,” Pope said.

When an eatery is able to maintain a competent and content crew, it’s only then that a restaurant can provide the consistent quality that customers demand, Rohrer said.

“You have to treat both the customers and the staff well,” Rohrer said. “Sad to say, but a number of my employees tell me they’ve worked for owners or managers who don’t understand that.”

When the ambiance, food and service all work in harmony, customers know they will be taken care of every time they come in, Rohrer said.

But after a quarter-century in the restaurant business, Rohrer admits that level of consistent quality is sometimes easier said than done.

“Most people who get into this line of work don’t realize they need to be open 363 days a year,” Rohrer said. “Some things will happen that are out of your control, but every restaurant or pub will be judged by how they handle those mistakes. When something goes wrong, you have to be more than fair to those involved.”

Columbus has long been known for its cultural diversity, and the three most popular ethnic cuisines in the U.S., as determined by the Food Network — Italian, Chinese and Mexican — are well-represented by established local restaurants.

And with the growing south Asian population, a number of eateries featuring dishes originating from India and surrounding countries have begun to emerge.

However, both Rohrer and Pollert say they are unaware of any previous attempt to establish an Irish pub-style establishment in Bartholomew County, and that puzzles them.

That’s because Irish pubs are popular not only in every major U.S. city but throughout the world. The Irish Pubs Directory recognizes establishments in at least 10 Indiana cities — including small towns like New Carlisle.

“The Irish just have the reputation of being warmer and much friendlier,” Pollert said. “Irish pubs are well-known for being a place to have fun.”

Jonathan Rienstra, a staff writer for culturemap.com, has a more detailed and somewhat loftier explanation for their international popularity.

“The hospitality, the Guinness, the common nooks and platforms, makes each Irish pub at once familiar and mysterious,” Rienstra wrote for his Dallas-based website last June. “Every pub is designed for exploration, and out of exploration comes conversations with strangers, or a secret spot to hide from the outside world.”

The anticipation of the opening of Jordy McTaggart’s already has caused quite a buzz in Bartholomew County, Rohrer said.

“Everywhere I go, people tell me they’ve read or heard about (Jordy McTaggart’s) coming to The Commons, and they are really excited about it,” Rohrer said. “And I’ll tell you: That excites not only me but everyone working to get this establishment open.”

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