Joe Patrick Byrne

Joe Patrick Byrne (Alexander D. "Sandy" Mitchell IV / February 28, 2007)

Joseph Patrick Byrne, founder and proprietor of J. Patrick's Irish Pub, a popular Locust Point tavern with a reputation as a venue for Irish music that went well beyond Baltimore, died Saturday of cancer at Harbor Hospital.

The former Cockeysville resident was 81.

"It was a real gathering place for the Irish-American community of Baltimore, and it had the feel of a rural country bar, the type you find outside of Dublin. It was both warm and inviting," said Gov. Martin O'Malley.

"And Joe was a very hospitable man with a big smile. For years, he cared for his sick wife and he cared for the people of the neighborhood," he said.

Mr. Byrne was born and raised in Middleburgh, N.Y., where he graduated from Middleburgh High School.

He attended Syracuse University on a football and baseball scholarship and after leaving college in 1948 served in the Navy aboard the heavy cruiser USS Newport News.

After being discharged with the rank of quartermaster third class in 1952, he enrolled at Siena College in Latham, N.Y., where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1956.

Before establishing J. Patrick's Pub in 1987, he worked as an accountant for Shell Oil Co. in Towson and later New York City.

He returned to Baltimore, where he was chief financial officer and later chief executive officer of PharmaPlastics.

After leaving the company in 1985, he worked as a financial consultant for two years before opening his tavern at the corner of Andre and Clement streets.

"It was a lifelong dream, and when he retired, my mother said it was time for him to do it. He was its proprietor, owner and accountant, and did nearly everything else," said a daughter, Maureen Byrne Beahn, a lawyer who lives in McLean, Va.

"He and my mother lived upstairs and he was chief cook and bottle washer," said Ms. Beahn. "He was a huge fan of Irish music, and his hobby was making people happy."

"I had heard an Irish band, Ellis Island, in Annapolis in 1992, and they said their next appearance was at J. Patrick's Pub in Locust Point. I went to hear them. That was the first time I was ever in there," said Alexander D. "Sandy" Mitchell IV, a Baltimore writer and photographer who is a correspondent for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.

"J. Patrick's was not a professional plastic Irish pub with shamrocks on the wall and green beer on St. Patrick's Day. It was a throwback to an earlier era, when truck drivers and dockworkers came in for breakfast," said Mr. Mitchell, a patron for two decades.

"And then later in the day, the locals would go in. It drew people from Columbia, Washington, Bel Air and Cockeysville at night," he said. "It was a real community meeting place and cultural center, and a lot cheaper than taking a trip to an Irish pub in Ireland."

He described Mr. Byrne at first meeting as something of "a grump but once you got to know him, he had a warm heart."

"He used to say, 'If you walk in here a stranger and are one a half-hour later, it's your own fault,'" said Mr. Mitchell.

The pub with the green door and its comfortable Celtic surroundings became known not only locally but internationally as a destination for Irish musicians and their fans who came to hear ballads, jigs, reels and polkas.

For the thirsty, there was Guinness, Harp, Smithwick's, Bass, Boddington's and Magner's Cider, as well as Yuengling and Bud Lite on draft.