Jim McEvoy and Stephen Stadler at McCabe's Irish Pub
Best anyone could tell, the revelers who crowded into McCabe’s Irish Pub in downtown Naples on Sunday were all breathing.
Not a corpse in the house.
The Irish wake the Naples institution held to bid farewell to 16 years of merry-making on Fifth Avenue South was strictly for the living.
“We’ve enjoyed ourselves here,” said Naples resident Victoria Clarke-Payton, 36. “That’s why we’ve come back today for one last hurrah.”
When McCabe’s opened in 1997, it quickly became a popular gathering place for Irish and non-Irish alike and played a central role in the birth of what is now Naples downtown entertainment district. McCabe’s has been Naples’ unofficial headquarters for post-parade partying every St. Patrick’s Day, when thousands of people overrun downtown Naples in a sea of green.
But now, as Fifth Avenue has changed, it’s time to say goodbye to McCabe’s, said Phil McCabe, owner of the restaurant and the newly renovated and expanded Inn on Fifth next door and across the street.
“It worked, obviously it worked, but it’s over, it’s over,” McCabe said Sunday. “The McCabe’s of 16 years ago needs to be put out to pasture.”
McCabe is replacing the dark-paneled traditional pub with a bright contemporary restaurant — he’s calling it aVenue 5 — to better match the competition on Fifth Avenue South and his new hotel, he said.
The demolition crews aren’t set to get to work until Tuesday, time enough for McCabe’s to lift one more pint.
Sunday’s festivities included live clap-along Irish music, kilts, Irish dancers, two-for-one Irish fare, $1 beers after 8 p.m. and McCabe’s merchandise giveaways.
Nostalgia lovers could even play a lottery to win bar stools, tables, chairs and knick-knacks from the pub’s mahogany walls.
McCabe said he already gave a couple from Minnesota their favorite table; McCabe’s workers took away a banquette and a pub table.
Sherry and Jack Rentmeester, from Green Bay, Wisc., used McCabe’s closing as an excuse for a Labor Day weekend trip to visit family in Naples.
“We come here every time we’ve been here,” said Jack Rentmeester, 55, wearing a green T-shirt to commemorate the closing of another Irish bar, Kane’s, in Green Bay.
Sherry, 52, whose mother ran Kane’s until it closed in 1989, said McCabe’s had another benefit: “When you are shopping, you know where the guys are.”
McCabe’s was a gem in the midst of a tropical paradise, said Naples resident Kate Sullivan, 53, who comes from a proud Irish family.
“It’s a destination pub,” said her husband, Dan, 56. “It’s at least a place to start, if not finish.”
McCabe says he intends to continue to play host to St. Patrick’s Day events at the Sugden Plaza next door and will reopen McCabe’s at another spot downtown in two years. He’s not ready to say where yet.
As the doors closed Sunday, more than one person was wondering about more than where McCabe’s will hang its new shingle.
“Do we really need another elegant restaurant?” Naples resident Norine Cocozza said, ordering shepherd’s pie and corned beef to share with her husband. “This is what it’s all about.”
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Live performances at McCabe's, courtesy of YouTube: