Bob Smith has loved owning Murphy’s Irish Pub. He bought Sonoma’s iconic watering hole a decade ago, thinking that he would retire and become a “curmudgeonly bar owner.”
He didn’t have any prior experience owning or running a bar or restaurant.
“I probably wouldn’t have bought it if I had, I think it’s the kind of thing you only do once,” he said with a laugh.
He said that he and his business partner, Bill Pollock, set out with the best intentions to both own and operate Murphy’s but that they both forgot to retire.
As a result, he said, they have “really struggled” to make time for it over the past four or five years.
Smith, 66, has been the prosecutor for the City of Sonoma for more than 30 years. As part of those responsibilities, he also heads up Sonoma Valley’s Youth and Family Services program, which is based out of the Sonoma Valley police department. And expanding the reach and success of that juvenile diversion program is what he is most passionate about.
“I am finding myself so involved in the program, and finding my work so rewarding that I am dedicating more and more time to it, and less to the bar,” he said ruefully. “I thought I’d be long-since retired by now but I’m busier than ever.”
He thought they had found the right management solution this summer when Sondra Bernstein and John Toulze of the Girl and the Fig agreed to take over the day-to-day operations.
“They did a terrific job,” said Smith. “It is remarkable what they accomplished from the back to the front in a short period of time.”
But since the fires, and the demands that the crisis placed on the operations of other Fig businesses, Bernstein let Smith know they needed to slowly transition out.
“But thanks to them, this place is now turnkey,” said Smith. “And so it seems like the time is now right to sell.”
“We really want to find someone who will carry on the tradition of Murphy’s,” Smith said. “Someone who really cares about the brand. We’re hoping the transition is just going to feel like a change in custody.”
If you have always dreamed of owning a bar, or you are just a huge fan of Murphy’s, you may need to act quickly.
The pub was officially listed as for sale on Tuesday, and Smith said on Wednesday that there has already been a lot of interest. The minimum offer is $350,000 and all bids must be submitted by Dec. 15.
“And most of it from locals,” he said happily.
Murphy’s was founded 28 years ago by Larry and Rose Murphy. The pub, which is located at 464 First St. E., offers a full bar, an extensive restaurant menu with a private dining room, an outdoor covered and heated patio and a busy calendar of events with live music, happy hours, trivia nights, darts, sports viewings and more.
The rent is $7,000 a month. The lease expires July 31, 2025, with one five-year option to renew. The total space is approximately 3,000 square feet for the bar, dining room, banquet room, kitchen and a 650-square-foot space, across the alley, that is currently unused. The new tenant will have the right of first refusal to purchase the property when the owner wants to sell.