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Inside the music scene at Murphy’s Irish Pub in Sonoma

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When Dermot Coll and his partners, Tom Coll and Richie Hart, got wind of Murphy’s Irish Pub being for sale last year, they jumped at the chance. Dermot Coll said, “We’ve had our eye on Murphy’s for years. We love Sonoma and wanted to be business owners here.” Their dream deal closed in February.

Much has been muttered and rumors have flown, but it is all coming together now for the new ownership team.

“It’s a wonderful bar. It’s been great!” said Coll.

There are new menus on the tables, new staff in the kitchen, new décor throughout, and a new booking agent for the live entertainment. The music at Murphy’s has always been a huge draw, for locals and tourists alike. That is something that is not going to change.

The first thing that might be noticed about the “new” Murphy’s is the walls have been revealed and a new coat of paint applied. Stools have been replaced and a curvy leather bench seat installed. All the posters, photos, mirrors, jerseys and hurleys (hurling sticks) that were on the walls have been taken down. Larry Murphy, who founded the pub across the alley 25 years ago, told Coll that, “Everything has a story.” Rest assured, Larry, it’s all been inventoried and safely stored away.

Coll is well aware of the place Murphy’s holds in the hearts, and appetites, of locals. “The history of the place matters a lot,” he says.

That has not stopped them from adding new yummy pub grub, however. Coll coaxed his father-in-law out of retirement to take charge in the kitchen. Daniel Martes had been part owner of Girabaldi’s in San Francisco for many years. Under Martes’ direction, Coll promises that the food is “as good as any in town right now.”

The music program that has been the mainstay for all these years is coming back, too. Currently, live music is offered three days a week; Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays. Coll says, “Down the road, I would love to have live music in here five days a week!”

Historically, Murphy’s has booked live music in to the back room, called “The Snug,” since it moved across the alley. Many, if not all, local musicians and bands have played there. It has been a favorite. This past week saw the Gentlemen Soldiers and Atomic Cocktail. The next couple of days, Murphy’s offers Jaydub and Dino, and the Cork Puller Trio.

The talent agent for Murphy’s, Jack Coleman, is excited about the music, too. He says he’s “always trying to reach a balance of the local talent and out-of-town acts.”

Therefore, things take on a different flair on Tuesday, July 3, when Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Review rolls in to tear the place up. The band is from New Orleans, and they are making a short summer swing through Sonoma County and San Francisco. They will play here, in Petaluma, and in Cloverdale, before hitting the City then heading back to the Big Easy.

Reached in Colorado, Vanessa Niemann, the “gal” in the band, sounded a little road weary, but excited to come to Sonoma. “We always love going to new places, and none of us have ever been to Sonoma before. We hear it’s beautiful.” When asked about what the new album, “Lost and Found,” might bring listeners, she says it has a decidedly “Gulf Coast feel to it.” The album was produced by Squirrel Nut Zipper mastermind Jimbo Mathus. The music lineup for the Fourth of July at Murphy’s was a bit different, too. The day started with Dan Martin and Noma Rocksteady. San Francisco’s beloved Blind Penguins will play mid-bill, and Sabbath, a solo artist also from S.F., closes out the day.

While his dad talked with me, Dermot’s young son, Daniel, was chowing down a delicious-looking Caesar salad his grandpa Daniel had made for him. Through a mouthful, he mumbled something about it being “…Mmhmnahmchchm… really good...” A ringing endorsement, indeed. He was wearing his summer uniform: A’s hat, Kid Cool T-shirt and black soccer shorts.

And speaking of soccer, during the current World Cup tournament, Murphy’s is the place to be for breakfast. They will open at 8 a.m. and show the games on all the TVs.Guinness before 9 a.m.? Ah, sure. Guinness at 9 p.m., with great live music? Bring it on!

Murphy’s Irish Pub, sonomapub.com; 464 First St. E., 935-0660.