Every day is St. Patricks Day for J.B. OBriens Irish Pub owner John Howard
- Kristen Forbes
- The Times - Features
In addition to the Irish pub in Tigard, Howard is a proprietor for Bounty Hunter Saloon in Tigard and McKenzie Pub in Sherwood
'Here, we're in the middle of Tigard and King City and Summerfield. It's a very nice community to be a part of,' says J.B. O'Brien's Irish Pub co-owner John Howard.
Howard knows the community well. In addition to the Irish pub in Tigard, Howard is a proprietor for Bounty Hunter Saloon in Tigard and McKenzie Pub in Sherwood.
Owning restaurants, Howard says, is a fun responsibility, 364 days a year. Then, for one day in March every year, the job elevates from fun to epic.
'Where Every Day is St. Patrick's Day,' goes the O'Brien tagline. When the March 17 date rolls around each year, Howard and his staff go all out, putting on live music, hosting promotional teams from Jameson, Bushmills, Coors Lite and Jagermeister and featuring bagpipe music from Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Pipes and Drums.
'The first year, it took me by surprise,' says Howard of the restaurant's popularity on St. Patrick's Day. 'I had never had a pub with an Irish theme. Every year, it has grown.'
Howard gets a little help from some of his friends in the community, including Pipes and Drums founder Tim Birr, a longtime firefighter and proprietor.
'He's one of my really good friends and a great guy,' says Howard.
'He's been such a help for me here over the years. That guy is busier retired than he was working.'
Born in Oregon City and raised in Wilsonville, Howard now lives in Tualatin and devotes most of his time to his restaurants. He got his first taste of the restaurant industry in 1985, when he began working at TGIFriday's, a chain known for its heavy emphasis on employee training. Howard rose through the ranks, starting as a host, transitioning to server and later becoming a bartender.
'They were handing me a lot of responsibilities there. That's how I learned about the restaurant business,' says Howard.
As owner, Howard prides himself on his role as leader of a small, tight-knit staff. In an industry where heavy turnover is common, Howard has found a devoted group of servers, bartenders and cooks.
'I haven't had anybody on the staff leave for about three years now,' Howard says.
Howard has his hands in all aspects of the business: everything from atmosphere to menu to parties to bookkeeping. From choosing the location to hand-selecting and installing the wall decorations, Howard has a say. He hates to make the comparison, but it's there anyway: In wanting to create a comfortable and friendly spot, he duplicated the feel of a certain famed Boston bar. After all, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. For O'Brien's regulars, this is where they come to hang out with their friends.
Howard says the pub is also home to Philadelphia Eagle football fans.
'Football is huge, second only to St. Patrick's Day,' he says.
The Philly cheese steak is one of the most popular items on a menu that includes breakfast served all day, fish and chips, bangers and mash and the always popular 'Johnny's Hot Sister' sandwich: an Italian club with turkey, pepperoni, pastrami, bacon and pepper jack cheese.
When he's not working - which isn't often - Howard likes to escape to the coast, where he enjoys fishing and digging for clams and mussels.
'The coast is quick and easy to get to, but you get to be a world away when you're there,' he says.
And back at J.B. O'Brien's, Howard is appreciative of the patrons he serves.
'I love being here. I love the community. The people are very generous,' says Howard. 'I've tried to give back a little bit, supporting some of the local groups. The Red Hat Society loves it here. We support the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue and the police department. It's just really great to be a part of Tigard. I feel really welcome here.'
J.B. O'Brien's is located at 11555 S.W. Durham Road in Tigard.