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Irish Rose celebrates 39 years in business in downtown Rockford this year

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — For over three decades the spot to get a pint of Guinness and delicious pub fare downtown has been the Irish Rose.

Owner Mike Leifheit started the bar and restaurant in his hometown in the 1980's after a life changing moment changed the direction of his career.

"I was in New York City working for Coca Cola and I got fired one day," says Leifheit, "and I went to my office and decided to buy my first restaurant over the phone."

Leifheit says he always had wanted to open up his own restaurant because cooking had always been a passion of his, and he wanted it to be a pub because of his Irish heritage.

"I'm he only Irish pub owned by an Irish guy, I'm the only Irish game in town."

"My mom was born in Kilrush, County Clare. We were into food and then when I was 11 we went to Ireland. When you go to Ireland at that time you go to the pork butcher to get pork, you go to the beef butcher to get beef. And you know what, I still do the same thing today," says Leifheit.

When you walk through the doors of Irish Rose, you're transported into a classic Irish watering hole where pints are flowing and so is good conversation.

Something a pandemic will never take away.

"This is the craziest thing I've ever seen in my lifetime."

The restaurant was hit hard. Sales were nearly cut in half and the business relied on state and local small business grants to stay open.

"In spite of operating at 50%, you know people will call, they make plans," says Leifheit. "They're willing to wait."

Now with indoor dining back open and one of the biggest Irish holidays happening close together, Leifheit says the Irish Rose is going to pull through.

"I think we're going to make it and to me that's very exciting."

The Irish Rose is open from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on St. Patrick's Day with a corned beef and cabbage special on the menu for the occasion.

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Maggie Polsean

Maggie Polsean is an anchor for 13 News Today. Born and raised in Rockford, she is excited to be back home working for the station she grew up watching. Maggie is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and Christian Life high school in Rockford.

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