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Belly Up

March 15, 2012
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Cooney’s Tavern is Irish to the roots

Owner Brian Cooney has put Cooney’s Tavern on the map because of his made-from-scratch Bloody Marys, which are always served with a beer back. $5.50..

By Amber Williams

Ladies, if you can’t find your husband, he’s probably bellied up to the bar at Cooney’s Tavern.

On any given day of the week, owner Brian Cooney finds his bar busy with local guys who just might be looking for a good place to hide. If a sanctuary is what you’re looking for, you’ll find it in the shadows of Cooney’s Tavern in Beaverdale, which opens at 2 p.m. — a prime time for escaping work (or the wife) to disappear for a while before the “Happy Hour” crowd shuffles in.

It’s a dark bar, and Cooney likes it that way. Save for the three leaded stained glass windows along the front wall glowing with afternoon sunlight, a patron might easily convince himself that it’s a more socially acceptable time of the night for the level of intoxication he has going. You can blame your bartender for that, because after more than 30 years in the business, Cooney knows how to pour a good drink.

Cooney’s Tavern is famous for its Bloody Marys, which are made from scratch to such therapeutic perfection that one should probably obtain a prescription first. But it’s the variety of 10 draft beers on tap that get the most regular attention, he said. Besides, a Bloody Mary — as medicinal as it can be — is not an Irish drink. And, at Cooney’s, Irish is not just a bar gimmick. In fact, Ireland may not be celebrated more authentically anywhere else… except Ireland, of course.

“You won’t find green beer on St. Pat’s here,” Cooney warned, “because it’s not Irish,” he said without the slightest smirk. “No car bombs, either — this is a bomb-free zone,” and he means it.

“Irish Car Bombs are an insult to the Irish. Would you got to Manhattan and order a 9-11? To me, it’s a real insult,” Cooney said.

So he’s got a couple rules, but aside from that, guests come as they are in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders. By day, it’s admittedly a bit of a sausage fest, but the lady patrons catch up quick by the time 5 p.m. rolls around. And, as is true with lots of holes-in-the-wall in Des Moines, the crowd changes depending on the time of day.

“When I open I’m the youngest in here, and when I close I’m the oldest in here. That’s just the way it turns,” Cooney said.

And a warning to any thin-skinned sissies out there: The bar is shaped like a question mark, and if you can’t take a joke, you might want to edge on down to the period, because where the bar is curved often sits a handful of ornery old-timers who exemplify that Irish charm. If you don’t speak sarcasm, you’re better off at the other end of the bar. CV


Fun Fact: Cooney’s Tavern is decorated with authentic Irish paraphernalia, including actual metal street signs that used to stand at intersections in Ireland. And most of the house is designed and furnished with salvaged materials: two different back bars from Eddyville and Deep River, leaded stained glass windows from the Holy Trinity Church in Beaverdale and table tops from a downtown building that doesn’t exist anymore — nearly everything, right down to the brick, is salvaged.


Cooney’s Tavern

3708 Beaver Ave.


Hours: 2 p.m.-2 a.m., Mon.-Fri.; noon-2 a.m., Sat.-Sun.

Happy Hour: “Every hour is happy hour.”

Capacity: 75

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