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Putting his own twist on the place in Mount Morris

A new bar owner is planning some changes, but he’s sticking with a tried and true game plan: Keep it simple

Bar manager Evon Johnson (left) and Mullarkey's Bar owner Mike Mullarkey stand ready to serve at the new downtown Mount Morris bar, which also offers arcade machines, pool tables, and video gambling.
Bar manager Evon Johnson (left) and Mullarkey's Bar owner Mike Mullarkey stand ready to serve at the new downtown Mount Morris bar, which also offers arcade machines, pool tables, and video gambling.

After years of working at the family business, Mike Mullarkey now has a place of his own. 

Mullarkey, 40, of Freeport, opened Mullarkey’s Bar and Grill last weekend at 12 W. Main St. in space previously occupied by Barcade.

Mullarkey bought the 2,600-square-foot building from local bar owners Dave and Maggie Johnson 3 weeks ago and is in the process of putting his own twist to a place, which served as a bar and an arcade.

“I met a lot of people from Mount Morris and really like everyone here, and the space here gives us a lot of opportunity,” he said.

Mullarkey worked at Ridott Corners Tavern in Ridott, east of Freeport, for 19 years. That place prides itself on its burgers, and Mullarkey plans to bring a little of Ridott over to Mount Morris when he gets a kitchen set up. 

The current setup will change over the course of the next 6 months, Mullarkey said. He also plans to build a new U-shaped bar, and arrange for northern Illinois breweries, such as Generations in Freeport and Wishful Acres in Lena, to serve their products in the bar’s taps.

Mullarkey sticks to a basic business motto: Keep it simple. That’s what made Ridott Corners into a popular place in northern Illinois, with just burgers on its menu.

“We want to make sure everything’s in the right spot before we do anything,” Mullarkey said. “Less is more sometimes. If you got less on your menu, but everything’s good, that speaks for itself.”

Folks entering the bar on Sunday walked right onto a wood floor music stage where J.T. Wells, owner of the Chile Pepper Bar and Grill in Oregon, played songs on his acoustic guitar. 

The arcade games are still there, as well as gambling machines. Some of the games include the NFL 2-Minute Drill football toss, a pair of Ice Ball skee ball games, Big Buck Hunters, Fast and the Furious Super Bikes, and a Playboy pinball machine. Pool tables and darts also are available.

Patrons can watch sports, and just about anything else, on one of 13 TVs that Mullarkey plans to put up throughout the bar.

“If you’re missing something on TV, it’s your own fault,” Mullarkey said. “There are lots of opportunities to watch the Cubbies, Bears and local sports.”

A kitchen with a few hot grill items, including Ridott’s burgers, is in the planning stages. Meanwhile, Mullarkey sought out the NorthSide BarbaQ food truck out of Shannon to serve pulled pork, brisket sandwiches, chicken wings and sliders, and macaroni and cheese. 

NorthSide owners Aaron and Katie VanRaalte plan to be on site for about 6 months, in addition to working at stops in Byron, Forreston and Oregon.

“We’re from this area, and we want to continue to serve this area,” said Aaron, 24, of Shannon. “Mike came to me, offered this, and I decided that I might as well go for it.”

Mullarkey said he had a terrific turnout for the opening weekend, and hopes it keeps going.

“Everything’s been going great so far,” Mullarkey said. “The community’s been great to us, and we look forward to hosting more events and give them something they can call their own.”

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