Any bar owner who has Guinness on tap, wooden decor and U2 on the playlist can call his place an Irish pub. But Brian McMullan also brings a 100-year Gaelic heritage to his namesake watering hole.
McMullan’s paternal grandfather bought the Farmers Hotel in Glenarm, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in 1908, and that history is pervasive throughout McMullan’s Irish Pub, which is filled with family photographs and fixtures and adornments that come from Ireland, including the bar itself.
Since opening the pub just outside The Orleans in 2002, McMullan has managed to create a place that feels oddly as if it’s always been there, a place to join friends and mark the big moments—christenings, birthdays, weddings, funerals. “You try to make it homey,” he says. “You try to make it a place with a convivial atmosphere.”
McMullan, 64, arrived in Las Vegas in 1997 when his firm, Seven Circle Resorts, was developing the Resort at Summerlin (now Rampart Casino). There he helped create J.C. Wooloughan’s Irish Pub, which was shipped from Ireland and reconstructed here. The experience left him excited for the next challenge.
“I wanted to see if I could do it on my own,” he says.
In 2000, he left Seven Circle to form the Celtic Hospitality Group, which specializes in building Irish pubs. He also represents the Irish Pub Co., which has built 70 pubs in the United States, including Nine Fine Irishmen in New York-New York.
While McMullan’s roots in are Ireland, he was born and raised in South Africa. He moved to London in 1968 after finishing college and entered the gaming industry as a dealer. Soon, he had worked his way up to director of gaming operations for five casinos, including the Playboy Club.
In Vegas, McMullan has developed a stellar reputation not only as an entrepreneur but also as a philanthropist. He is deeply involved in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money for childhood cancer research through head-shaving events. His interest is personal: It has been 15 years since he and his wife, Lynn, lost their 2-year-old daughter, Kyra, to brain cancer.
McMullan’s hosted its fifth St. Baldrick’s event on March 5 and raised $270,000. The pub has raised more than $1 million in its first five years of involvement.
With that kind of impact, it’s clear McMullan has put new roots down in Vegas. But walk into his pub and you’ll understand that his ancestral Irish spirit still runs deep.
“I’m very proud of the heritage, because I love my mother and my father,” he says. “I love that they’ve given me this history. I would say that as I get later in life, I become more Irish.”