History

What the heck does Bruff’s mean?

Well, back in 1848, the great potato famine was at its peak. Seamus McDonald and Patrick Fitzgerald left Bruff, Ireland and boarded a boat bound for Boston, Massachusetts. A new life awaited them in America. They both longed for the promise of a new life, new adventures, and new opportunities. After all, America was the land of opportunity. The land of hope.

They both came to America with a dream and a treasure. For Patrick it was the family bible (later used at JFK’s inauguration). For Seamus, it was a family recipe. Whiskey. Irish Whiskey. The family secret. Once in America, the two men bound by friendship but separated by occupation, went on to fulfill their destinies. Patrick became a cooper. And Seamus, well Seamus, headed for a life as a distiller. His Irish Whiskey was renowned in Boston. Seamus’ grandfathers’ recipe was an instant success. Later Seamus and his son Ronald opened their first tavern. “McDonald and Son” was born.

Life was good for Seamus and Ronald. Then came prohibition. The new legislation closed the family business. So began their life as bootleggers. Since they became bootleggers the family recipe still lived on. Eventually they opened speakeasies. Life was again good. Eventually prohibition was repealed and Seamus and Ronald could give up their life of crime. Seamus and Ronald made it through prohibition and the Great Depression and thrived in spite of it.

Several decades later – Gary R Burgess met and wed Mary McDonald (Ronald’s granddaughter) in Wichita, Kansas. They opened their first bar – The Pink Squirrel – in Wichita. The tavern owning legacy continued. In 1968 the couple moved to Emporia and opened the first of several bars – The Tap Room. Later the couple would open The Bourbon Barrel, Oasis, Huggies, Uncle Al’s, The Tap Room II, Mary’s Place and Annie’s West. In 1982 Gary and his only son Gary Allen partnered on their first bar Union Street. In 1988, Gary purchased his first bar. Located on East Sixth Street, it held two bars. Upstairs was “The Attic” and downstairs was “Fireside”. Once he owned the building he combined the bars into a single two story bar. To pay homage to his heritage, Bruff’s was born.

Sherri, the couple’s daughter, shunned the family legacy. As the black sheep of the family, Sherri went on to a successful “normal” career outside the bar owning industry.

So what is Bruff’s? Well Bruff’s is a legacy. Bruff’s is a recipe. Bruff’s is a family’s story. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Bruff’s Bar & Grill – The rest of the history…

In 1988, Bruff’s opened. It started as a two story bar. Several years (and many a drink later), Gary opened a kitchen. Serving burgers and sandwiches, Gary started small but the best was yet to come. Eventually came Thursday and Friday Night Steak Nights. A bar that served great food was born.

On February 29, 2004, a small fire that turned into a roaring blaze started. Despite the heroic efforts of a dedicated fire department, Bruff’s burned to the ground. The foundation was saved. Roughly four months later, a new Bruff’s was born on Eighteenth Avenue. More restaurant than bar, a new era began. It continues to this day.

And the family secret recipe for Irish Whiskey? Well, it was lost during the Great Fire of 2004. But the drunken memory will live on…and on…..and on.

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