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BEHIND BARS: Irish Times

Columnist John Atkinson has one of the best desserts he’s ever tasted and a perfect pour of Guinness
Bartender Olivia Campbell at Irish Times. The Irish Times is a fixture on Victoria’s Government street and features live music seven days a week. (John Atkinson)

The luck and love of the Irish is alive and well in Victoria at the Irish Times.

General manager Parker Lilly said the Government Street pub lives by the words “The Craic, drinks for the spirit, food for the body and music for the soul.” And I, as an Englishman who loves the Irish (our kindred spirits), felt a connection to that.

The thriving establishment, which opened in 2004, is world-renowned and won two Irish Pub Global Awards: the Best Irish Pub in North America in 2017 and the Best Irish Entertainment Venue in North America in 2018.

“We opened with the intention of offering traditional Irish fare as well as modern pub fare,” said Parker. “From the food to the drinks to the kilts to the music, our guests come from far and wide to soak in the culture of our pub.”

Irish Times boasts over 40 taps from local craft breweries/around the globe and claims to have the largest selection of Irish whiskeys in Canada. (John Atkinson)
Irish Times boasts over 40 taps from local craft breweries/around the globe and claims to have the largest selection of Irish whiskeys in Canada. (John Atkinson)

“What makes the Irish Times unique and outstanding within the bar culture of Victoria is its perfect pour of Guinness, plus one of the largest Irish whiskey lists around.”

While there, I sampled the delicious bacon & brie burger, pints of Murphy’s Irish Stout, Kilkenny Irish Cream and a sample of Smithwick’s Irish red ale-style beer. Plus, their delicious Guinness Brownie for dessert.

The Irish Times’ interior design and decor/memorabilia were inspired by Vicpubco owner Matthew MacNeil’s love of Ireland and the pubs he visited on the Emerald Isle. From the stained glass he brought back, to the handmade chandeliers made in Victoria, everything stemmed from what he had experienced on his travels to Ireland.

Lilly said the secret to success and winning awards stems from the sense of community that the Irish Times creates on a daily basis, plus having live music on offer seven days a week.

READ MORE: ‘Absolutely wonderful’: Victoria Irish Rovers co-founder celebrates nomination

“We really work hard to create that fun enjoyable atmosphere from the second you walk in the door until the moment you leave. When it comes to craving a pint and some good conversation, I think everyone feels like they have a little bit of Irish in them.”

The Irish Times features live music Sunday to Thursday at 8:30 p.m. and Friday, Saturday at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesdays always feature Irish music.

To learn more, visit

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Q&A with Parker

What is your signature drink and dish?

Undeniably Guinness and Shepherd’s Pie, Irish Stew, Bangers; Mash Fish; Chips Times Cheeseburger; Oysters; Fried Oysters; Clam Chowder; Crab Bisque; Guinness Brownie

What makes a great bartender?

When we hire a bartender we are looking for someone that is engaging with customers, likes to smile, and knows a thing or two about beer, wine and spirits (ideally Irish whiskey).

Describe your ideal customer experience.

“I think the feeling of being taken care of from the moment you walk in the door until the moment you leave. Quick attentive service, making the customer feel at home and providing a smooth service from beginning to end. All the while creating a fun, engaging atmosphere, with great food and drinks for the customer to enjoy.”

Is the Guinness Brownie (perhaps the best dessert I’ve ever tasted, BTW) your own creation?

“The Guinness Brownie is an Irish Times creation and a staple on our menu, which has been there for many years and will remain so for many more.”

How often do you rotate your taps and drink/beer/whiskey menus?

“We rotate our drink menu once in the spring and once in the fall. We are always adding great new whiskeys to our menu, so be sure to ask the bartender for any new favourites they may have.”

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