She loved the music and the atmosphere. She decided that she would come back again.
Noel Cooney, a frequent entertainer at the pub, noticed her in the crowd. After a few months of looking out for her, he decided that next time, he would ask her out. As fate would have it, the next time she came in she had her entire extended family with her Easter Sunday. He chickened out.
When he finally saw her again, he asked her out right away. Trina, the future Mrs. Cooney, said, "yes." Noel can recite the day of their first date.
“July 17th, 1994," he said. "We watched the World Cup Final between Brazil and Italy together."
The Cooney’s were newly in love and were given the opportunity to buy into Flanagan’s. But having no restaurant experience between them, they said no. A few years later they were given another opportunity. They declined.
“The third time we couldn’t pass it up,” Trina Cooney said. “It just seemed like it was meant to be.”
So in 1998, the Cooney’s got married, purchased a house and bought into the business. Eventually, they bought out their partners and became sole owners.
But even Trina, an intelligent former configuration coordinator, found the career switch came with challenges.
“I easily learned most of the business,” Trina said, “like how to change out the kegs; but I didn’t know much about running the kitchen. One time during an Arts and Crafts Festival, when we would have been busy all day, we had a kitchen fire and had to close down. That fire was preventable, and I realized if I didn’t know how to do it myself, then I couldn’t properly manage our employees. I had to teach myself the whole business from top to bottom.”
“Dale, on the other hand, really started from the bottom and worked his way up,” Noel said, referring to Trina's son Dale Ayers.
“I started as a dishwasher when I was a teenager,” Ayers said. “Then at 18, I started to bartend. It changed me. I used to be quiet and keep to myself. Tending bar taught me how to talk to everyone and anyone. I really learned the motto of the pub: ‘There are no strangers here, only friends who have never met.’”
After finishing college, Ayers bought half the business from his mother and Noel. At 28, Ayers brings a younger energy to the traditional pub.
The family is well known for having one of the biggest St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Pinellas County, but from day to day, all ages can go there to enjoy good food and entertainment.
“So many people don’t realize we serve excellent food,” Noel said. “I’ve been eating it for 14 years and I still love it.”
Try the traditional Shepherd’s Pie or fish and chips; or try something new, like the veggie wrap or the savory artichoke dip. Then review it on Patch.
When he is not on tour, Noel plays traditional Irish music at Flanagan’s Wednesday through Sunday. (You can read more about Cooney’s extended career in Patch article “Meet the Artist.”)