Owners of Dougherty's Pub, closing this month, reflect on more than two decades

"I think the pub exhibits what Baltimore is." The owners of Dougherty's reflect as bar plans to close.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with reflections from the owners of Dougherty's Pub. The original story on its closing is found at the end of the article.

Bill Dougherty hates to be the center of attention, his wife, Sherry, cautioned Wednesday afternoon after delivering a chicken sandwich and fries to the bar.

Reporters had been calling Dougherty's Pub since Monday, when news came that owners Bill and Sherry Dougherty had decided to close the Mount Vernon mainstay. She said it was good I had come in since Bill is “not much of a phone guy.” Sit tight, Sherry said.

Thirty minutes later, after the steady lunch crowd dispersed, Bill Dougherty emerged from the kitchen, ready — but not exactly eager — to talk about why now was the right time to close.

“It was just me getting older. The business is a physical business, and I’m here every day,” he said. “I’m 65, and it just seemed like a good time to be getting out. My kids are grown. Get out while I’m still happy and not forced to sell because I get sick or I hurt my back.”

The Doughertys are surprised by the reaction they’ve seen from patrons since the news of the bar's closing. They thought it would not be considered a big deal, but fans of Doughtery’s Pub — which opened in 1994 — have reminded them otherwise.

“I think the pub exhibits what Baltimore is. It’s a very diverse community [of patrons],” Sherry said. “It’s always been a place where anybody could walk in the door and feel comfortable.”

The decision has the couple feeling sentimental and nostalgic. Bill said he would miss the patrons and employees — people he considers friends — the most.

There are, however, aspects of running a bar they won’t miss.

“We were talking about snow this winter. We won’t have to drive down here to shovel snow!” Sherry said. (The couple lived in Bolton Hill when they opened Dougherty’s Pub, but moved to Timonium years ago to raise their two children.)

Bill didn’t hesitate in choosing what he's happy to leave behind.

“I’ll miss least paperwork for the state of Maryland, Baltimore City and the federal government,” he said. “I hate the paperwork.”

Retirement is likely, Bill said.

“I’m probably done,” he said. “I think it’s going to be hard for a 65-year-old person to get a job in the restaurant industry, unless you own it.”

There will be plenty of time in the future for deeper reflection, and besides, Bill and Sherry have 10 more days before Dougherty’s Pub closes for good. It’s bittersweet, they said, but the right choice.

In the meantime, they had work to get back to. Before Bill headed back to the kitchen, he was asked if the final day — Dec. 19 — would be like a normal day.

“Well, it won’t be business as usual,” he said with a laugh. “I think there are some parties planned, and I have nothing to do with it.”

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The long-running Irish pub Dougherty's will close its doors in Mount Vernon for good this month.

Dougherty's Pub, an unpretentious staple of Mount Vernon's bar scene since the '90s, announced on Facebook on Tuesday its last day of operation will be Dec. 19.

"We can't begin to tell you what a difficult thing this is for Bill [Dougherty] and I,” read the Facebook post. “But please know how much all of you have meant to us. You supported in so many ways. We are truly grateful and honored to have served you over these many years and feel extraordinary lucky to have been at this for so long.”

City Paper first reported the closure Monday. Owner Bill Dougherty “said he wanted to end the bar on his own terms, rather than sell it under ‘dire circumstances’ such as illness,” the paper reported.

Since opening in 1994, Dougherty’s Pub has attracted neighborhood residents and students from nearby colleges. It was also known for its happy hour specials and reasonable prices. In 2013, the bar made b's “Baltimore’s Cheapest Beers Guide” for selling Coors Light, National Bohemian and Budweiser drafts for $2.75.

A Sun dining review of Dougherty’s from 2004 noted its lived-in atmosphere.

“[E]very table was occupied and a few patrons were eating at the bar. Some patrons were in business suits, while others wore jeans and sweat shirts,” reads the lunch review. “There was a feeling of comfort to the place, a sense that most of the customers had been there many, many times before.”

wesley.case@baltsun.com

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