What they were putting everything into would require everything they had. The space at 2211 Oregon St. needed plenty of work. The site had come into being in 1959. It was the brainchild of Clarence Deniger who came to Oshkosh from Beaver Dam in 1945. Deniger had begun construction on what would become Lake Aire Shopping Center in 1958. It was Oshkosh’s first shopping center and over the years had been home to everything from Deniger’s appliance store to beauty salons and hobby shops to grocery stores. But Lake Aire had housed nothing like what the O’Marro’s had in mind.
The Winemaker Restaurant had been at the heart of the Lake Aire Center since 1982. But by 2003 the restaurant had run its course and was about to go under. That same year, Shawn and Brandy had taken their second trip to Ireland where Shawn had fallen in love with Irish pub culture and the inky stouts made by Guinness. The O’Marro’s wanted to bring that taste of Ireland back home with them to Oshkosh. The recently vacated Winemaker space had deteriorated over the years, but it also had everything the O’Marro’s wanted – a kitchen, a full bar and a banquet hall. Their offer on the property was accepted on July 4, 2004. The long days were about to begin.
The renovation was difficult, but it went relatively quickly. By August 2004, the pub was open. There was little in Oshkosh to compare it to. “At the time, it was just us and Oblio's that always kept Guinness on,” Shawn, says. “You could hardly get people to drink anything that was even slightly dark.” Brandy laughs remembering what they were up against. “I think we were the only bar in Oshkosh that didn’t have Miller Lite on tap,” she says. “We were told we’d never make it. Not in this town.”
The grand opening of O’Marro’s Public House was held on September 24 and 25, 2004. The Thursday before, the Oshkosh Northwestern ran a short feature on the new bar naming it “Tavern Of The Week.” It included a picture of a serious looking Shawn O’Marro pouring a pint of Guinness. The pub had eight beers on tap and not a light lager in sight.
The past decade hasn’t seen the O’Marro’s settling into a rut. The pub continues to grow and evolve. These days, there are often more than 200 beers available at O’Marro’s with the draught lines now numbering 18.
What hasn’t changed is the basic premise that the O’Marro’s started with. “This is a place where you meet new and old friends,” Shawn says. “We get them all, from twenty-one to eighty. You’ll see a doctor sitting down next to a biker talking over a pint. Nobody here cares about all that other crap. They want to have a good conversation and a good beer and a good time. We’re just doing what real Irish pubs have always done. Only we’re doing it in Oshkosh.” Here’s to the first decade of the O’Marro’s Public House. Sláinte!