James Joyce to Close, Reopen as Sports Bar

Avondale Irish pub gets new life as family-friendly sports bar.

Next weekend the James Joyce Pub in Avondale Estates will close as an Irish bar and reopen the following week as The Hail Mary.

The new concept will be modeled after a family-friendly sports bar, The Hail Mary in Grayson, Georgia, said owner Blake Hawkins.

“We’ve been open for nine years,” said James Joyce owner Denise Gerard, a native of Ireland.  “The Irish pub concept hasn’t really worked for us.”

The James Joyce will close with farewell celebrations Friday, Sept. 30, through Sunday, Oct. 2. There will be a soft opening as The Hail Mary Oct. 4, with the new business planning to be in full swing by Oct. 6.

When it opened in 2002, The James Joyce was the toast of the town, with its mahogany wood interior and authentic Irish décor. But as the economy took its toll, business dropped off and Gerard and her husband Michael began looking to make changes, specifically considering the concept of a sports bar.  

“I also own the BrewHouse Cafe in Little Five Points, a sports bar which has done very well,” Gerard said.  “Americans like to be able to watch their sports and have a beer in their neighborhood."

The Hail Mary was established in 2008 in Grayson by a group
of sports-loving friends, according to their website. After traveling the world and visiting many pubs, they created the concept and named it after the famous football play, a long shot pass from Dallas Cowboys’ Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, during a critical playoff game in 1975.

“We’re bringing the concept to Avondale but the store will remain independent of The Hail Mary in Grayson, Hawkins said. In the future, the company will offer franchises.

“We’d been talking to Blake for about a year about the business,” Gerard said. “When we found out he was looking for a second location we thought it would be a good fit for the city.”

“We’re really excited about coming to Avondale,” Hawkins said.  “We’re very community oriented and believe in giving back,” he said citing the Grayson Children’s Fund that sponsors several charity events throughout the year including a golf tournament to help underprivileged children.

“We’ll have something for everyone -- from $1.50 draft beer on up,” Hawkins said. The menu will feature familiar items such as fish and chips and shepherd’s pie as well as new items such as chicken wings and a full children’s menu. The family friendly business will feature bingo night as well as trivia and open mic night.

All current employees will remain on staff and Daniel Acree will remain general manager. Gerard will retain ownership of the property and maintain a percentage of the business as a silent partner.







Phototrekker September 23, 2011 at 01:17 PM
The James Joyce has always been incredibly average - some type of pseudo Irish pub feel with bad food and waitstaff and that drove the clientele it attracted. Last few times I was in there I could not believe what it had morphed into looking around me. I guess to stay in business that element will have to be catered to.
Michael Goettee September 23, 2011 at 01:19 PM
UGH. Just what we need, another sports bar. I'll miss James Joyce.
Phototrekker September 23, 2011 at 01:43 PM
I know huh? Every time I went in there I kept thinking why can't this place have a better vibe like when I go to Brickstore or Mac McGee's or Leon's. I mean go to those places, learn from them. They had flat screens all over the place - it was for all practical purposes already a sports bar. A week or two ago I was picking up a sub from the Pizza Cafe and heard this obnoxiously loud horn - I mean like a train horn loud - no kidding - honking several times from some huge pick up truck in their parking lot. Guess that is what we get to look forward to now.
Jonathan Belcher September 23, 2011 at 01:59 PM
I wish the new place the best of luck. The building and name were never the problem. The fact that the management and staff had a high turnover rate and a lack of consistency when it came to service and food quality brought on its demise. I'm not sure changing the name will solve their inherent problems. We will have to wait and see.
Gina Hill September 23, 2011 at 02:09 PM
I think any change is a good sign. I loved JJ when it opened but the quality has seriously gone south over the years. It smells like a college bar, the menu hasn't changed, the service and the food is mediocre overall at best. I'm shocked the parking lot is always so full. I wish them luck. Believe me, I would love nothing more than something as good as Leon's or Brickstore -- or even Taco Mac -- could be right out my back door.
clm1950 September 23, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Sad to see them go. I hope the change will be good for the business.
S.A. September 25, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Great to see The Hail Mary coming to Avondale. These guys do a tremendous job in Grayson. Great owners, great staff, great food -the pot roast nachos are incredible, and just a fun place to hangout and watch a game or two. Cheers guys!
TheBulge September 28, 2011 at 06:30 AM
The owners, Michael and Denise, are notoriously sh**ty employers that treat their employees badly. The only reason that dump in Little 5 is still around is the location. Will gladly never walk into the new place knowing that they have any involvement. Too many other great places to put up with the downstream of their crappy attitudes.
Nick September 28, 2011 at 05:38 PM
Of course, this will need to be a Falcons/UGA bar!
Lucinda October 06, 2011 at 05:48 PM
Sorry to see the Joyce go! I used to go there often...guess I'll try the Trackside Tavern. Not interested in a "family-friendly sports bar." Aren't there plenty of those already?
Lucinda October 06, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Same here. I don't go out often, but now I have to find a new place.
Special K October 12, 2011 at 06:00 PM
Just for the record, the "Hail Mary" play in football existed loooong before 1975 and has nothing to do with the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, the play was already called a "Hail Mary" long before the NFL even existed.


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