Irish-style pub Molly Brannigans closes in Mt. Lebanon

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Molly Brannigans, the popular Irish-themed pub in Mt. Lebanon, has closed.

Employees received the word on Sunday, the day after the bar's final night of business. The space could soon be occupied by another restaurant, Walnut Grill, which bought the building and the business from Molly Brannigans, according to the pub's CEO, Colm McWilliams.

Minus the Mt. Lebanon location, which opened in 2005, Molly Brannigans has just two remaining bars, in Erie and in Harrisburg.

Mr. McWilliams said the company was not looking to sell its Washington Road location, but that Walnut Grill approached him in March of this year, saying it wanted to expand into the South Hills. Shadyside's popular Walnut Grill has opened two stand-alone sister restaurants, called Walnut Grove, in Fox Chapel and Wexford in the last five years.

At one time, Molly Brannigans, based in Erie, had hoped to turn itself into a small national chain, with multiple Pittsburgh locations, but luck has not been with the Molly Brannigans name since the recession took hold.

The local restaurant's one-time landlord, Erie-based Pittsburgh Irish Pubs LLC, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2007, but the bar itself remained open. The building has since changed hands twice, most recently purchased by Transamerican Trust of Wexford, in 2010.

Before that, according to Allegheny County records, the owner was Frank Zokaites, who bought the space for $1.2 million in 2009. Mr. Zokaites is a Wexford-based developer, and was an investor in Pittsburgh Irish Pubs LLC before its bankruptcy filing.

The pub closed its doors in Arizona in 2008, and in 2009 it also closed -- rather than face eviction because of unpaid rent -- its one-time Scranton, Pa., location. Scranton eventually sued the chain for $650,000 in back loans, and the IRS filed a related $31,000 tax lien against the company earlier this year.

Also in 2008, Molly Brannigans also pulled out of a planned space in South Bend, Ind., without ever opening its doors, and did the same at Ohio and Las Vegas locations.

Just a few weeks ago, though, the state issued a $600,000 grant to continue the rehab an old shoe store building in Bethlehem, Pa. One of its planned tenants is said to be Molly Brannigans, though that location has been in discussion for more than three years, and has yet to open.

Mr. McWilliams also said that the company also hopes to open another Harrisburg location.


Bill Toland: btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.


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