It’s not the end of the rainbow: The famous sisters behind Lynches Pub & Grub have their Irish eyes set on the easy life after 28 years as restaurant owners.
| 12:00 p.m. April 1, 2015
Lynches Pub & Grub owners Chris and Ethna Lynch joke every year that it will be their last St. Patrick’s Day. They said it again this year during the five-day celebration in which they served 500 meals on March 17 alone — the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the restaurant’s history.
But few knew that this year, the Lynch sisters were serious.
Chris Lynch, 60, and Ethna Lynch, 65, had a deal to sell their St. Armands Circle Irish pub and retire. The deal with restaurateur Jason Burns, who previously owned Bogey’s Sports Pub in Bradenton, became official March 23.
They had put the restaurant up for sale in May and had talked with other potential buyers but held out until they found one who would operate it in the same spirit.
“We wanted someone who would have fun with the customers and who would be the owner/operator,” Chris Lynch said. “Some people wanted to be investors.”
Burns, whose wife, Lisa, will work behind the scenes at Lynches, sold Bogey’s to purchase the St. Armands restaurant.
He doesn’t plan to test his luck when it comes to owning and operating Lynches.
“The name’s staying the same, the staff’s saying the same, the menu’s staying the same,” he said. “It’s a good formula, so why change it?”
He spent the entire Friday-through-Tuesday St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Lynches to see how things run — and never once did he wonder what he had gotten himself into.
Both Lynches are eager to leave the long days of running a restaurant behind them.
“It’s very sweet,” Chris Lynch said. “There’s nothing bitter about it. We’re both very happy, and we want to take it easy. We realize you can’t just work forever. We’ve both worked hard, and we’ve been very successful.”
“I’m looking forward to the easy lifestyle from here on out,” Ethna Lynch said. “We’ve paid our dues.”
The Lynches legend
Ethna Lynch used to refuse to date farmers because she couldn’t imagine anything harder than farm life.
She and her sister are two of 12 children who grew up working their family farm in their native village of Ballydehob, Ireland.
“Then, I moved to America and discovered farming could have been an easier way of life,” Ethna Lynch told the Longboat Observer last month, describing the life she and her sister made for themselves restaurant owners.
Ethna Lynch moved in 1972 to the U.S. and worked restaurant jobs in Boston, Miami and San Francisco before moving to Hawaii in 1974. Chris Lynch decided that Hawaii sounded more appealing than working a job in banking in Ireland, so she joined her sister there. After eight years, they headed to Florida and settled in 1982 on Longboat Key.
Both sisters got jobs on the Key: Ethna Lynch at the Holiday Inn, and Chris Lynch at the Buccaneer Inn.
In the early years, St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t celebrated much in the area.
“There was no mention of St. Patrick’s Day in this town,” said Chris Lynch, who said the Holiday Inn’s 1982 celebration was the first of its kind in the area.
Four years later, they decided to open their own restaurant, Lynches Landing, in the 4000 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, where the old Schooner Restaurant was located.
They spent their final $20 on Christmas Eve that year to have trash hauled away from the site of their new restaurant; the day after Christmas, they opened for their first day of business.
The sisters had no idea how big the first St. Patrick’s Day at Lynches would be their first year, in 1987, until they ran out of corned beef and cabbage. From 1988 on, they stacked corned beef floor to ceiling for the giant celebration.
Lynches Landing became a popular local watering hole for all sorts of patrons.
Ethna Lynch remembers two men who became rowdy at the bar, insisting the restaurant should serve corned beef and cabbage every day, instead of only on St. Patrick’s Day.
“When you open your restaurant, you put corned beef on your menu,” she snapped.
About a month later, they came back offering apologies.
She forgave them but scoffed at them when they mentioned they wanted to buy property, possibly the Longboat Key Hilton.
“You and every punk in a three-piece suit,” she said.
Later, the two men — former Key Club Associates managing partners Shane Eagan and Tom Rasmussen — came back to Lynches, saying it was only proper that they celebrate their purchase of the Hilton and Longboat Key Club there.
The Lynches also became famous for their battles with the town.
They sawed off 19.5 inches of their shamrock sign to bring it into compliance with the town’s sign code.
They fought an unrelated sign code struggle when the town determined that the ice-cream cone in their leprechaun statue’s hand constituted a violation.
The Lynches opened Lynches Pub & Grub on St. Armands Circle in 2003; three months later, they closed Lynches Landing.
Today, the split shamrock sign hangs inside the Circle restaurant; outside, the leprechaun stands, holding a menu.
Burns said he’ll keep the shamrock, the leprechaun and the pictures from throughout the restaurant’s history.
Not the end of the rainbow
The Lynch sisters will continue to work at the restaurant over the next month to tie up loose ends and say goodbye to customers. Although trips to the Bahamas and Ireland are in the near horizon for retirement, the Lynches won’t be far: They’ll continue to live at their home in Country Club Shores, and they’ll probably be regulars at Lynches: Only now, they’ll be customers instead of owners.
They’ll remain active in the St. Armands Circle Association and will still be owners of the building at 19B Blvd. of the Presidents.
As for next St. Patrick’s Day?
“If I’m not coming here, I’m not going anywhere to celebrate,” Chris Lynch said.
Ethna Lynch said she’ll be there if Burns needs her. And if he doesn’t?
“On a bus taking a tour of all the other Irish pubs in town to kiss them all off,” she said. “I want to be a customer.”
March of time
The Lynches moved to Longboat Key.
Dec. 26, 1986
Lynches Landing opened on Longboat Key.
March 17, 1987
Lynches held its first St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
The Lynches fought their first battle with the town after they remodeled their restaurant and installed outdoor tables.
The Lynches chopped off 19.5 inches of their shamrock sign, six months after the town told them they missed a grandfathering deadline to bring their sign into compliance with a new code. The fight resulted in a $5,000 fine for the sisters.
Lynches Pub & Grub opened on St. Armands Circle.
Lynches Landing closed.
March 23, 2015
The Lynches sold their restaurant to Jason Burns.