McFaul's pub gives Ropewalk Tavern needed expansion and facilities upgrade

On Nightlife

December 27, 2007|By Sam Sessa

It's hard to miss McFaul's, the newest bar on South Charles Street.

The eye-catching black and red paint on the pub's outer facade looks fresh, and if you peer through the paneled glass door, you see swaths of shiny new wood.

McFaul's, which opened this month, may be the neighborhood's nicest new Irish pub. But it's not a stand-alone bar. It's actually just an extension of neighboring Ropewalk Tavern.

For years, the McFauls, who own Ropewalk Tavern, wanted to open an Irish bar. But their idea didn't find a home until recently, when they began renovating the building next to Ropewalk. They added a wraparound bar, installed stained glass, hung framed vintage-looking posters on the walls and had murals painted.

But most important, they doubled the size of the bathrooms.

Though Ropewalk is a sprawling bar with several different sections, the old bathrooms were dumpy, dirty and closet-size. Waiting lines sometimes stretched down the narrow corridor and out into one of the main rooms. It was a mess.

And believe it or not, general manager Marc McFaul was actually a little leery of renovating them.

"I was always told if you change original bathrooms, your business would go downhill," he said. "There was a superstition about getting rid of our old bathrooms."

But McFaul knew that life is about overcoming your fears. And he made the right move.

Step into the new bathrooms and you can still smell fresh paint - a welcome relief from the odors of their previous incarnation. The stalls and sinks are new, and high-tech Xlerator hand dryers are mounted on the walls.

Personally, I've never been a fan of hand dryers. They take forever to warm up, and even if you hold your hands under there for a minute, they still don't dry off completely.

Not so with the all-mighty Xlerator. I waved my hands under one of those, and in 10 seconds they went from sopping to spot-free. The gust of wind was so powerful I looked down to make sure there was still skin on my hands. There was. I gave the Xlerator two impeccably dry thumbs up.

At the bar, McFaul's has a list of mostly Irish stouts and European draft beers such as Carlsberg, Hoegaarden and Smithwick's. All in all, there are more than 15 beers on tap at McFaul's. It also has its own Irish menu. During renovations, the owners expanded the kitchen.

McFaul said between finishing McFaul's and making some structural repairs to the rest of Ropewalk, they spent about $850,000.

"We put a lot of money into it," he said.

It was a great investment. In terms of square feet, Ropewalk is a huge bar. But it's broken down into a number of more intimate rooms. Even when there are few people in the place, it doesn't feel empty.

"I think it still keeps a very small feel to it," McFaul said. "It still has a pub atmosphere."

McFaul's is another one of these rooms - an example of smart growth in the city's nightlife scene.

Now, the building adjacent to McFaul's is on the market. If Ropewalk took that one over too, it'd occupy all the storefronts on the block. Though McFaul looked at it, he said the family is not interested.

"It's out of our league," he said. "We're pretty much done expanding."

McFaul's is part of Ropewalk Tavern, which is at 1209 S. Charles St. Call 410-727-1298 or go to

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