Mashpee has a new nonagenarian, and his name is Bobby Byrne.
Robert V. Byrne, creator of the popular Cape Cod restaurant and pub Bobby Byrne’s, turned 90 on January 19.
Although the quick-witted entrepreneur now resides in Mashpee Commons—a short walk from one of the restaurants that bears his name (Barnstable has a second location, and another location had closed in Sandwich)—Mr. Byrne’s life has taken him around Massachusetts and the country.
Mr. Byrne recently sat down with the Enterprise to chat about that journey.
Born January 19, 1933, Mr. Byrne grew up in Taunton. He worked several jobs in the area—including in a factory and as an aide at Taunton State Hospital—and attended Stonehill College.
He played basketball as a youth before back issues ended his athletic career two years into college.
“That was a big blow,” he said. “When I was a kid, it gave me ink in the newspaper. It was the first thing...I felt I was somebody.”
As one might expect of someone who founded a pub, Mr. Byrne tended bar frequently, including in Massachusetts, Detroit and Los Angeles. It was working at a bar in New York, however, that provided the spark that eventually led to his successful restaurant.
The owner wanted to start a newspaper out of the bar, Mr. Byrne said, and asked if he would write something. The year was 1969 when he obliged.
“It got out of hand,” Mr. Byrne recalled, “because I wrote a serialistic novella, which is an 8-hour journey through a bartender’s mind, in New York, in an Irish saloon, during a full moon.”
Later, Mr. Byrne found himself working at New Seabury Country Club in Mashpee. New Seabury resident Philip A. Rollins—a former Mashpee selectman who also happened to be the Cape & Islands District Attorney at the time—read his novella.
“So, he said, ‘Hey, you ought to have your own bar,’” Mr. Byrne said. A friend pointed out a vacant spot in the New Seabury Shopping Center, which would later become Mashpee Commons, and the rest was history.
The Mashpee location opened its doors on July 26, 1973, according to the pub’s website. It has been expanded six times, Mr. Byrne said.
Although the restaurant is certainly somewhere patrons can enjoy quality food and drink, the pub also makes sure to honor one of Mr. Byrne’s great loves.
“My passions are language, more than anything, and words,” he said. The restaurant had a lending library, he said, but people would not return the books. Quotes from famous authors now adorn the walls.
Ahead of his milestone birthday, Mr. Byrne expressed contentment, a fact that should come as welcome news to all those who have enjoyed his company and pub through the years.
“I’m a really happy man now,” he said.
Paul Rifkin, a friend of Mr. Byrne’s who also lives in the Commons, summed it up simply, saying that he is “Mashpee’s treasure.”