Before I get into the particulars of the Irish Social Club of Boston, I’d like to first say thank you to Andy Sheehan, the president of the club. He’s been the leader of the club for more than 30 years. We need to thank him before we discuss any issues.
Now onto the saga of the currently quasi-closed Irish Social Club of Boston. ... No one seems to know what’s going on – not the board, the trustees of the club, the neighbors, or members of the club. Right there is the problem – a lack of communication.
Had the leaders of the club told the fledgling membership of the dire financial problems, maybe there wouldn’t have been an invite-only meeting on Tuesday at the Roche Family Community Center to discuss the future of the club.
Paul Kilgariff, the club’s longtime attorney, came to answer questions, of which there were many. He looked tired, somewhat beaten down by the closure of the club, but he also continually rebuffed any suggestions to keep the club going. It seemed like he felt the leadership of the club had already decided they had done all they could to save the club.
Kilgariff said the club recently lost $16,000 in a four-month span from November through February. He also pointed to this past St. Patrick’s Day’s event, at which, after the band was paid, et al, Kilgariff said it would’ve made better financial sense to remain closed that night because of such a small attendance.
Yet members young and old believe very little has been done to keep the club going.
Member Kathleen Adams (one of the few members on Tuesday night who didn’t have gray hair) presented the most recent bulletin for the club that made no mention of the dire financial straits of the club. It listed there was a business meeting for the club, but failed to mention if they didn’t raise enough money soon, the club would have to close.
The club, and specifically Sheehan, has rejected many people and groups through the years who wanted to rent out the space. Richard Archer, president of the Knights and Ladies of St. Finbarr Cork Club, said Sheehan said "no" to him three years ago when the Cork Club wanted to rent the club on Park Street.
State Rep. Ed Coppinger, D-West Roxbury, organized the meeting, and can tell you plenty of stories about residents being told no repeatedly when they inquired about coming into or renting the club. On Tuesday night, Coppinger, who I’ve never seen or heard flustered before (the guy has four daughters!), was just that – agitated. With frustration in his voice, Coppinger asked Kilgariff why no one had been notified of the club’s problems. To be honest, Kilgariff danced around in a very lawyer-like way throughout the meeting.
By all accounts, it sounds as if Sheehan has an iron will and influences the trustees and the board – so much so, in fact, that several members didn’t know they voted a couple of weeks ago to sell the club's building. Coppinger has confirmed with several members they were unaware of what they voted on. Sheehan is also supposedly the only person who has keys to the club - the only person. Sheehan did not attend the Tuesday meeting.
As it stands now, the club has given back its liquor and entertainment licenses, but those aren’t the seven-day licenses that are greatly coveted in the city. I have a feeling that Coppinger and West Roxbury District Councilor Matt O’Malley will be able to get those licenses returned to the club, as they have said they could if the club lives on.
Kilgariff said the club needs about $100,000 in renovations for a new fire alarm system, roof repairs and other jobs.
Many club members were at the Tuesday meeting and said they would happily work on fundraisers to raise the money needed and to keep the club going. One member said a recent fundraiser garnered $43,000 in one night – a simple fundraiser run by another Irish club. Heck, if they can do it, so can the Irish Social Club of Boston.
Club member Patrick Casey also asked a line of rapid-fire questions that have been on everyone’s mind, which Kilgariff answered:
- The liquor of the club was sold for $3,000 to Martin Bligh of the Corrib.
- The pictures on the walls of the club are still in the building and have not been removed.
- As of March, the club's treasury had $26,000. The club has a mortgage of $35,000.
- The club is not working with a realtor to sell the building.
The money is a lot, but everyone tells me that the Irish community can come together and raise the funds to keep the club going and prosper. I don’t doubt it. I’ve seen many Parkway fundraisers and I’m always impressed how the West Roxbury community comes together. This time, we’re not drawing on just West Roxbury. We’re talking about the whole Irish community within the area. If we can’t raise the funds to keep the Irish Social Club of Boston going, then it doesn’t deserve to keep on living.
There’s also already good news: On Tuesday night, the club also had a generous donation of $5,000 offered by Jim Calvey, secretary of the Cork Club. Previously, two unions pledged to donate their time to install the fire alarm system.
Another ray of light shone through the clouds as board members agreed to allow a fundraiser to raise the necessary funds to hopefully keep the club going, said Coppinger on Friday.
All the members want is the chance to save their club from closing. After more than 65+ years of the club being in Boston, the Irish community deserves the chance to save their own club.