by Doreen Uhas Sauer
Columbus lost one of its greats on January 10, 2020, and St. Patrick’s Day won’t ever be the same in our city.
Mark Dempsey made being Irish – or just feeling a little Irish – such fun. As the owner of Dempsey’s Food & Spirits and the Jury Room, Mark was a classic tavern keeper, but the modern version of a 19th century role. He was a wit, wag, confidant, storyteller, kingmaker, and political savant, all rolled into one. Mark’s wife Megan and family came first, with all things Irish a close second. He greeted strangers with warmth and those he knew well with a wide grin and an appetite for conversation.
Mark welcomed us as if we had been on a long journey … had we just arrived by canal boat at the Mound Street wharf or by William Neil’s stagecoach on High Street?
Mark credited Columbus Landmarks with supplying him with the stories of the oldest tavern downtown, the 1831 Jury Room. In return, he moved tables and reservations to accommodate our meetings and events; sold our books; and tolerated our seemingly insatiable thirst for ghost stories (we loved it when the denier himself had his own “encounter” during the Jury Room’s renovation.) Mark was a terrific steward of historic buildings – he understood the power of preservation and the importance of place.
With a wearin’ of the green and a (now-cancelled) gatherin’ at the polls, both Mark’s passions, it is only fitting to raise a cup of coffee or a glass of the stronger stuff today. Remember Mark, friend to Columbus Landmarks and protector of the Columbus Blarney Stone – found in his uncle’s South End backyard, in service as a base in a baseball game until it was excavated and given its venerable place in Columbus history.
Dempsey’s Food & Spirits, 346 S. High St., is currently offering delivery and carry-out service with limited hours from 11am-7pm. Please consider supporting Mark’s family in their grief and during the COVID-19 crisis with your patronage.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Columbus Dispatch