Celtic Fox to host Jayhawk Theatre Revival

The Celtic Fox, located at 118 S.W. Eighth St., is the location for the Jayhawk Theatre Revival. The 120-year-old building, which has previously been home to the Kansas Newspaper Union and the Washburn Law School, is the first downtown restaurant to offer outdoor dining.

Brandon Bills

In the never-ending quest to revitalize downtown Topeka, The Celtic Fox Irish Pub and Restaurant is a prime example of how things should be done, with plenty of Guinness, a full menu, live entertainment and a welcoming atmosphere.

“I personally think it’s the coolest bar downtown,” said Mike Fox, owner, offering his unbiased opinion.

The Celtic Fox opened in September 2003, but its roots go back to Fox’s parents, who dreamed of owning an Irish pub.

“Our parents had always though about it and we thought it would be fun to do,” said Fox.

When Fox set out to find a location for the pub, he wasn’t prepared for the building at 118 S.W. Eighth Street. The rock solid 120-year-old building, located caddy corner from the Kansas State House, was perfect for the Celtic Fox.

Fox, whose career is in construction, was in awe of how he could renovate the building.

“I was just tickled when I found this thing,” said Fox.

The west half of the building was built in 1880 for the Kansas Newspaper Union. The third floor, which has has been converted into loft apartments, was the original location of the Washburn School of Law. Lights that once hung in the law school are now in the foyer of the main entrance.

“We basically tore it apart and started over,” said Fox.

The Celtic Fox occupies what was formerly two storefronts. To combine the two, a brick archway was constructed in the stone wall separating the two. The archway was designed to look like one at a Guinness brewery in Ireland. Set in the archway are two stones from Blarney, Ireland.

The Celtic Fox’s latest addition is also a first for downtown Topeka: outdoor dining. The new seating area on the sidewalk was the first approved by the city of Topeka for downtown.

Mike Fox owns the The Celtic Fox along with brother Steve Fox and cousin Pat Finan. Twelve other cousins also hold a one percent stake in the business. All owners are either siblings or first cousins.

“It’s a very family oriented place,” said Fox.

The Celtic Fox’s slogan is “Welcome to the family.” Fox, who has over 100 first cousins, describes his family as “a large Irish-Catholic family.” Signs of family are literally all over the The Celtic Fox.

Near the front entrance is a mural of Fox’s father and uncle standing in a Guinness warehouse. The stones in the mural resemble the faces of family members. Another mural shows Fox’s mother in a bar scene. On a back wall is a mural depicting The Celtic Fox on a street in downtown Dublin with a horse drawn Guinness cart on the street. More family members can be seen in the windows of the Dublin buildings.

Architecture and interior aside, Sherry Samm, bar manager, says it’s the friendly atmosphere that makes The Celtic Fox a great place to enjoy a meal or a drink with friends.

“If we don’t know them when they come in, we want to know them,” said Samm.

In addition to its food, beverages and friendly atmosphere, The Celtic Fox offers live music many nights of the week.

“We are really big proponents of live music,” said Fox.

On Friday nights, The Celtic Fox offers a jazz happy hour, encouraging people to stay downtown after work.

“It’s a little laid-back and it’s not very noisy, so people can have conversation,” said Trish Mark, night bar manager, who is also responsible for booking live acts.

Saturday nights offers a variety of live musical acts meant to draw people downtown. Popular live acts include That Damn Sasquatch, True North and Noah Earl.

Located just around the corner from the Jayhawk Theatre, The Celtic Fox is the perfect place for the Jayhawk Theatre revival show on May 2.

Fox is looking forward to reopening the Jayhawk Theatre because of what it will add to downtown.

“It’s something everybody should be proud of,” said Fox. “People in Topeka want to be proud of downtown.”

The revival of the Jayhawk Theatre would undoubtedly make the northeast block at Eighth and Jackson the most exciting place in Topeka.