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'Irish can, and will, be spoken here': His name is Irish Johnny and he's bringing a new pub to Uptown Butte

Irish Johnny says he’s been fascinated with the Mining City since he was a young lad growing up in Ireland.
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Posted at 9:16 AM, Aug 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-30 11:16:31-04

BUTTE — It’s said that Butte is the most Irish town in America and that’s why an Irishman wanted to open an authentic Irish pub in Uptown because ever since he was a young lad back in the old country, he’s been fascinated with the Mining City.

“Before I knew about Boston, before I knew about New York or Chicago, I knew about Butte and it was always talked about in these mythical terms, it was talked about almost like it was a fable—the story of Butte, America,” said the man who goes simply by the name Irish Johnny.

Irish Johnny came to America in the early 2000s and worked for Shawn O’Donnell who has five pubs in Washington State. Irish Johnny is opening the sixth pub in Butte in the former Mac’s Tavern on Main Street.

“We looked at 19 properties in Butte and the 20th was right here at 123 N. Main Street,” said Irish Johnny.

He says he feels connected to Butte ever since he first arrived.

“You know, they say the people of Butte measure their wealth not by money but by their friends, their family, their faith, and their work ethic. Those are similar values to the people of Ireland,” he said.

Butte is a city that attracted many Irish immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“During a time when Ireland was having a lot of economic difficulties and a lot of turmoil, Butte was a place they could come and find support and find wages,” said Butte Archives Director Aubrey Jaap.

Irish Johnny made it a point to hang a sign that read "Gaeilge a Lobhairt Anseo," or "Irish spoken here"—a language that was once illegal.

“It was punishable by death at a certain time in Ireland, and we’re going to be speaking the Irish language here to anyone who wants to speak it. Irish can, and will, be spoken here,” said Irish Johnny with a smile.

The restaurant is expected to open by the beginning of the new year.