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Tuesday November 25th 2014

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The Seat of Power: McGuire’s Irish Politicians Club

When McGuire and Molly Martin moved their popular Irish pub from Town & Country Plaza to Gregory Street in 1982, McGuire wanted to thank attorney Jim Reeves for all his support. He asked Reeves how could he return the favor.

“All I want is a four-top table to call my own,” Reeves told his friend. Why? “I told McGuire when you’re a politician, it takes you a half an hour to go a hundred yards, and you don’t want to be waiting in line to be seated.”

Few know Pensacola politics better than Reeves. The real estate attorney and developer served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1966 to 1972 and on the Pensacola City Council from 1977 to 1983. He is currently the chairman of the Community Maritime Park Associates Board of Directors.

When the Gregory Street location was ready to open, Martin showed Reeves his table in the corner in a room off from the main dining area. He could hold his power lunches and come and go through the kitchen.

Reeves recently met with the Independent News at the table in a private dining room that was built around it. That room is now home to the famous, and at times infamous, Irish Politicians Club.

While Reeves wanted just a table at the new McGuire’s Irish Pub, his friend and advertising guru Cooper Yates had a bigger vision.

Cooper was an idealist, according to Reeves. As he tells the story, Cooper said, “Aw, man, we need to make this the Irish Politicians Club. We’ll have trips to Ireland. We’ll have golf tournaments. We’re going to charge $40 a month (which was what the Executive Club was charging at the time).”

Reeves replied, “Bullshit, we’re going to charge them $12 a month and it was just going to be like the Marine Corps. We’re not to promise them shit but this private room.”

The IPC, as it later became known, ended up being a combination of the grandiose plans of Cooper Yates and Reeve’s simpler Marine Corp approach.

“We ended up with 60 members and four tables in a room where you could hear what everybody was saying,” Reeves said.

Twenty-two years later, Reeves still has his table for lunch. He still can come through the back of the restaurant. The four tables have been replaced with semi-private booths.

“This is strictly patterned after the old Silver Slipper in Tallahassee,” Reeves said. The “Slipper” was a famous restaurant in the state capital where lobbyists picked up the tab for lawmakers and political deals were hatched in curtained rooms. After 71 years, it closed in 2009, a victim of the state’s tighter ethics laws.

Reeves clarified his tale to make sure that the reporter didn’t link the IPC to the Silver Slippers’ demise. “The idea was to copy the layout,” he said. “But this is strictly a social club.”
He was also quick to point out the financial commitment that Martin has made to the IPC. The seats in the club area would be much more valuable if they were in the open dining area, which is why there are no IPCs at his restaurants in Destin or Pensacola Beach.

Pointing to a chair across from his table, Reeves explained, “That seat, if it were out in the pub, would produce $27,000 a year. Inside here, that chair produces $7,000 annually, including the dues, which is now set at $20 per month.”

Membership applications are usually considered twice a year. “The way it works is somebody has to ask to be in,” Reeves said. “We used to have blackballs, which is the reason we have troubles these days, but we don’t have them any more.”

He added with a chuckle, “This is strictly for fun. We have foreigners. We have felons. We don’t discriminate based on any criteria, except if you don’t pay.”

The charter masters, who serve as the IPC executive and membership committee, review all the applications and make the final decision as to who will be accepted. The charter masters are Martin, Reeves, Tommy Tait, Charles Carlan, Barry Beroset, Jim Cronley, David Peaden and Autumn Beck. Peaden and Beck are the newest additions to the charter masters.

Peaden has served as the executive director of the Home Builders Association of West Florida for the past 13 years. He is active in Rotary and serves on the boards of Rebuild Northwest Florida, United Way of Escambia County and Gulf Coast Kids House Child Advocacy Center.

Beck  is an attorney with McDonald Fleming Moorhead. Prior to moving back to Pensacola, she served as Political Action Committee Director and Legislative Counsel for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, where she was a lobbyist before the Florida Legislature on business-related issues. She is serves on the Board of Trustees for the Pensacola Little Theater and is a Ballet Pensacola Guild member.

“We’ve never had a female charter master,” Reeves said. He said the two young professionals will help to build the second generation of the IPC and help it survive beyond Reeves and Martin.

However until that day, Reeves can be found at noon every weekday holding court at his seat of power at his reserved table in the IPC.