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Quote Unquote: This Annual St. Patrick’s Day Block Party Raises Thousands For Charities in Hawai‘i

Meet the man behind Murphy’s Bar and Grill.


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Don Murphy, 68, never dreamed of owning a restaurant, but when his boss, an investment banker in California, bought the old Matteo’s Royal Tavern on Merchant Street, it was either move to Hawai‘i and run it or be out of a job. Thirty-one years later, Murphy’s Bar and Grill is known as much for its St. Patrick’s Day block party and giving back to the community through fundraisers as it is for the stellar homemade pies made by “the backbone of this place,” Murphy’s wife, Marion.

 

Don Murphy

Murphy says the pub has raised about $3 million for charities over the past three decades.
Photo: Leah Friel

 

I think we just do what we do. We don’t try to change or go with the trends too much or anything. We’re kind of a down-home, homey place. That’s what we attract, although there’s also a young crowd. Every week we have a new set of specials but it’s a basic menu.

 

[Marion] grew up baking with her mother and making pies. She’ll bake probably 14 pies this afternoon and tomorrow. In March, she’ll do Irish whiskey cake and Bailey’s cheesecake.

 

Looking back, we just always kinda grew up enjoying having a good time, having a party, and figured, hey, we could do some good things for people and have a good time doing it.

 

On an annual basis, we do St. Patrick’s Day, then we’ll do Hawai‘i Children’s Cancer Foundation. That’s raised well over a million dollars for them. And we’ll do Hawai‘i Literacy; it’s their largest fundraiser. Then we do Miracle on Merchant Street, where we close down the street, feed about 300 people and we just ask people to bring an unwrapped gift for the Ronald McDonald House and we’ll get about three- or four-hundred gifts.

 

“When I opened up, in a three-block radius of here, there were eight restaurants. There’s now over 30.”

 

One year, at Miracle on Merchant Street—I can hardly talk about it without getting emotional—this little girl ran up and threw her arms around me and hugged me and kissed me. She’d seen a video of us the year before and just thanked me. She didn’t make it another year.

 

Of course, there are so many good charities out there and they all need help. You just do what you can do.

 

I think 2019’s gonna be a tough year for our industry. It looks like minimum wage is gonna go up, our costs are going up, everything’s going up and you can’t just keep raising your prices.

 

I was talking about it with my wife—I asked, “How much longer do you wanna do this?” She said, “I don’t wanna stop.” I said, “Then I won’t either.” Every time I come up with some cockamamie idea, she just says, “Go do it.”

 

Read more stories by Katrina Valcourt

 

 

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