By Sophia Chang
Frank Mockler, head of the family-owned Irish restaurant and bar, has sold the restaurant to a group of Flushing and Bayside investors. Known for its traditional dishes like corned beef, black and white pudding, and Irish coffee, the restaurant will close its doors the first week of September. “A lot of people think we're like the Statue of Liberty,” the spry 76-year-old said. “That we'd always be here.” Mockler cited a number of reasons for the sale. “I feel like the captain of the Titanic,” he said. “The economy is poor. People's money took a severe downturn and everybody had to cut down,” he said, noting that people eat out less in lean economic times. “All those home cooking shows, everyone's at home trying Emeril's recipes when they should be in here.” Utility and food costs had gone up and maintaining the restaurant's extensive menu had become financially difficult, Mockler said. In addition, the restaurant's core customer base had dwindled in the area. “Irish immigration is not what it was,” he said. So he figured it was time to face reality with pride. Mockler said that selling the restaurant had been a consideration for at least a year. “We were approached by several people. We had a figure in mind, and someone came close enough to that figure to make it interesting,” he said. “I feel that I walk out of here with my head held high without owing anything to anybody except loyalty to my customers,” he said. “It has been a fantastic run.” Mockler said he thinks the new owners may renovate the restaurant, although it is possible the group may use the building for another type of business.Mockler and his brother Patrick opened Patrick's Pub at 252-12 Northern Blvd. 40 years ago, featuring Frank's now-famous Irish coffee. “He started serving Irish coffee at the (1964) World's Fair and afterwards opened this place,” said Franceen McPoland, Mockler's daughter. In a example of the restaurant's emphasis on family involvement, McPoland helps run the restaurant and gift shop and is married to the longtime bartender, Michael McPoland. Patrick Mockley's son, John, and his wife, Patricia, are also involved in the restaurant. Bette Terzi, another daughter, manages the restaurant's office and said the family will miss the place. “We have very mixed emotions. It's a great gathering place for the family,” she said. “Our motto right now is 'one day at a time.'” In 40 years, Patrick's Pub has seen its share of athletes and celebrities pass through its doors. “When the Jets used to play in Shea Stadium, the team would bring their families in,” Mockler said. “We would reserve the entire second floor for them.” In addition, comedian Alan King and “the fellow who used to emcee the Academy Awards”– Billy Crystal– have been known to stop in, he said. And one famous local resident even spent a few summers waiting tables. “George Tenet used to work here as a waiter,” Mockler said, referring to the former CIA director whose family owned nearby Scobee Diner. The restaurant was known for its St. Patrick's Day celebrations. “Every St. Patrick's Day, we would move 2000 pounds of corned beef,” Mockler said. “People will miss us for St. Patrick's Day.” Mockler said another factor in his decision to sell was his aging if loyal clientele, which cast the future of the restaurant in question. “Above all, I think if people started to come when they were 30 years old, they'd now be 70,” he said. “We needed more replacements. We would like to see more young people.” Mockler said he began informing customers of the impending closure in early August. “The customers are devastated,” he said. “We'll have a farewell party, with complimentary food and half-price drinks.” Interested readers should call the pub for details on the party, Terzi said.Little Neck residents Gert and Buddy Munro were munching on the bread basket while waiting for their Sunday dinner. They said they had been eating at the restaurant since it opened, and that four of their eight children had worked there. “We're very disappointed,” Gert Munro said. “It's like a landmark.” She noted that Patrick's Pub is now almost unique in the area, dominated by fast food and Asian restaurants. “It's just nice if you don't want Chinese food,” she said. “Where else can you go if you just want a hamburger?” The family also owns a jewelry and gift shop adjacent to the restaurant, the Claddagh. Mockler said that he will not sell the shop yet, although he acknowledged that it will be difficult watching the new owners changing his legacy from next door. “It will be tough to see the new restaurant next to the gift shop,” he said. “We held onto the gift shop because there is a lot of precious merchandise that can't just be taken away.” But, he added, the shop was having a large half-off sale to cut down on its inventory. “Possibly the next step is to sell the gift shop,” he said, noting that the new owners of the restaurant had expressed interest. But Mockler has no plans to retire. He is scouting locations for another restaurant. “We're busy shopping, busy looking for a smaller place for Pat's,” he said, within a five to seven mile radius. One thing the new restaurant would have to have, Mockler said, is a smaller menu. “Customers won't let you downsize the menu,” he said. “Someone will tell you, I drove all the way from Huntington for your lamb stew. No one makes this kind of Irish food anymore.” Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.