54 Beers on Tap & 100 Different Beers Total!
O’Riley & Conway’s Irish Pub is in Janesville, WI with 54 Beers on Tap and over 100 different beers total! HUGE House Wine & Scotch List! We offer a fantastic menu that features traditional Irish fare, the freshest wild caught seafood, belt busting burgers and sandwiches and even a great Irish breakfast!
Mon-Thurs 11 am-10 pm
Friday 11am – midnight
Sunday 8am -9pm
Irish Bar Steeped in Local History
October 20, 2010
O’Riley & Conway’s Irish Pub might be a new bar and eatery in downtown Janesville, but the narrow chunk of real estate on Milwaukee Street hasn’t surrendered its history and soul.
The former Quaerna’s Tavern, 214 W. Milwaukee St., has kept its old—the tin ceiling, the back bar and original bricks—amid a mix of new, including an Irish flavor, and tile and parquet floors.
The owners who helm its reincarnation are members of the same family that opened Quaerna’s just days after Prohibition ended. The liquor license remains Janesville’s oldest active license held by the same family.
The owners—Ed Quaerna and his nephew, Joe—are descendents of Oscar Quaerna. Oscar opened Quaerna’s in December 1933, first on Franklin Street and then at the current site after World War II.
O’Riley & Conway’s opened on St. Paddy’s day this year.
Ed, 59, is Oscar’s grandson and a history teacher at Franklin Middle School in Janesville. He also has worked in the bar business for years, first with his dad, Ed Sr. at Quaerna’s, and most recently as the owner of Tremors in Janesville.
Joe, 44, who is Oscar’s great-grandson, lives in Cottage Grove and works in the floor-and-tile business.
Quaerna’s shut down for renovations in August 2009. Ed and Joe paired up and decided to offer something different in the downtown.
“I kind of had a vision for how to lay it out,” Joe said. “Eddie kind of convinced me to go all Irish. I think it’s a good fit for old downtowns. Janesville was lacking something like that.”
The pair have the Irish heritage to boast, as well.
Connie, Ed’s wife, was a Conway, and Joe’s wife was an O’Riley. Both have grandparents who were Rileys.
The pair created a cozy space with dark wood and warm, rich accents.
They knew they wanted to retain the tin ceiling and Oscar’s handcrafted, 65-foot-long, Art Deco-style back bar. Ed moved it to the other side in sections and cleaned it up to give the establishment a new feel. The two also removed plaster to expose original brick.
A battered safe has a place of honor near the front door. It has been stolen twice and both times ended up in the Rock River, Joe said. It was recovered when police followed its trail into the water.
Large photos in the entry depict historic Janesville, and Irish crests hang from the walls and represent Janesville names. Families with Irish roots are bringing in their own historical photos, and the Quaernas are putting them in the booths that line one side of the bar.
The wood and tile flooring is notable. Joe has done flooring in Irish pubs in Ireland and on both coasts.
The wood for the parquet floor came from Europe, and the tile floor is a colorful montage.
His Uncle Ed, upon seeing the tile, said, “Gee, Joe, nothing matches.’ I told him to get tiles that match.”
Ireland is not a wealthy country, and broken floor tile is repaired piece by piece, Joe said. “Three hundred years later, these pubs end up being a collage,” Joe said. “That’s how it looks over in Ireland.”
The building’s exterior also was transformed, and the Cozy Inn, a longtime Chinese restaurant upstairs, got a new red door.
The bar has 24 beers on tap, mostly European—”I thought it was out of line, but it’s been a real plus for us,” Ed said. Also, more than 80 whiskeys and scotches are available.
The partners showcase live Irish music, and Irish music is also featured on the jukebox.
The menu includes Irish egg rolls, Irish nachos, Reubens, wraps and hamburgers. It will open for breakfast beginning in December.
Future plans include an outside patio.
The city is working to revitalize downtown Janesville, and the pub adds another destination.
“If this can trigger something down here—which I’m hoping it will—I think it’s great for all of the downtown,” Joe said.