Eugene O'Neill's, across from the Forest Hills T stop, plans to throw open its door on May 12, some 4 1/2 years after it closed during the morass caused by the demolition of the old Casey Overpass and construction of the new Arborway.
New manager Carl Smith didn't have to move far - he was a longtime bartender at Foley's Fireside Tavern just down the street, which the Foley family shut on March 20 - the latest in a string of bar closings along Washington Street and Hyde Park Avenue from Forest Hills to Readville in recent years that had included Tonic next door to O'Neill's, Doyle's, the Drinking Fountain, the Cottage Cafe, the Hyde Park Pub and Cappy's.
Smith said owner John Jacob, who owns several bars in the area, including Napper Tandy's in Roslindale Square, never gave up the liquor license for the shuttered O'Neill's - named for the playwright buried in Forest Hills Cemetery, just a short walk from the bar - and figured now would be a good time to re-open a neighborhood watering hole in Forest Hills. Not only have people have been returning to public spaces after the pandemic but Forest Hills has seen - and is continuing to see - construction of hundreds of new apartments and condos, on either side of the Arborway, most recently in a new complex right next to O'Neill's block, where a parking lot used to be.
Smith said he's trying to create something Forest Hills doesn't really have now - a sort of hang-out bar where people can get something to eat and drink and then stick around to take in the Sox game. He added he hopes to welcome not just the neighborhood's new residents but the old-timers who used to make the Fireside Tavern their home away from home.
Smith said the revamped O'Neill's will start out with about 10 beers on tap - including Guinness, of course - and a relatively small menu of basic bar grub and cocktails. But that's more to give the staff time to ramp up and to see what sorts of beer people want, he said - over time, the bar will expand its tap offerings and the chef has permission to add to the menu.
He said he doesn't see O'Neill's as competition for the nearby Brassica and Dogwood Cafe - both places he would sometimes go to during his Fireside Tavern days and both places about which he only had good things to say. Brassica is a full-service sit-down restaurant, and while the Dogwood has a bar, it's only open until 9. O'Neill's, he said, would be open until 1 a.m. and plans to serve food until at least 10.