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Fundraiser failed to save Lombard restaurant
By Elisabeth Mistretta | Daily Herald Staff

After what owners hoped would be a temporary closing earlier this summer, Flaherty's Beef and Brew in Lombard permanently shut its doors.

 

Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

The Wojdylas, from left, siblings Chrissy and Brian and their parents Patti and Larry, say the statewide smoking ban was the final blow .

 

Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

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Published: 8/30/2008 11:48 PM

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Even a last-ditch fundraiser failed to keep afloat Flaherty's Beef and Brew in Lombard.

Larry and Patti Wojdyla held a benefit earlier this summer at their 29-year-old Irish pub to try saving it from a slowing economy, high gas prices and the recent statewide smoking ban that they say ate away profits.

The smoking ban, said Larry Wojdyla, was "the last nail in the coffin" for the downtown business at 418 S. Main St.

"I don't care if other states (banned smoking) or not, it's killing a lot of businesses," he said. "The state should have given neighborhood taverns the option to go smoking or nonsmoking. We have several nonsmoking customers who had no problems coming here."

After the ban went into effect at he start of the year, Wojdyla said profits fell as much as 25 percent, losing up to $6,500 per month. He said patrons were still coming but staying for less time and, therefore, spending less money.

"My place was a working man's bar, where people want to sit down, chat with friends and have a cigarette," he said. "Now people are thinking, 'Should I go in and spend $3 for a bottle of beer or spend $16 for a 30-pack and smoke at home?'"

Flaherty's closed temporarily on July 1 and hosted a fundraiser almost two weeks later that garnered donations from many close family and friends of the Wojdylas. One patron even donated whiskey because he said he couldn't stand to see an Irish bar without the spirit in stock, Wojdyla said.

But the donations weren't enough to cover the $36,000 in profits Flaherty's lost since January, leaving the family behind on property taxes and bills.

Wojdyla would not reveal how much was raised at the benefit.

Since July, the family has tried to get new owners interested in buying their business. But Wojdyla said upgrades needed to meet current DuPage County building codes and health standards scared them away.

"The second we closed we lost everything that was grandfathered in, and they just want too much done with the electricity, plumbing and getting the bathrooms up to code for handicapped-accessible use," he said.

In addition to Wojdyla and his wife, their two adult children also worked at Flaherty's. Now the family has filed for bankruptcy and Wojdyla said they are in danger of losing their home.

"We tried to get enough money to pay off all of our bills and walk off into the sunset by selling the place but it didn't happen," Wojdyla said "So we're done. Life goes on."