James Houlihan, owner and bartender of Park Slope’s famed Farrell’s Bar and Grill, died at 83 years old on Sept. 17. Known by locals as Jimmy and “Hooley,” Houlihan retired in 2019, after more than 20 years behind the bar.
Also known as the Mayor of Windsor Terrace for his contributions to the neighborhood, Houlihan in 2015 was inducted into Bartender Magazine’s Bartender Hall of Fame after 50 years of work, among legendary New York City establishments such as The Ritz-Carlton, 21 Club and Rao’s. It was the work Houlihan did outside the bar, in the community, that made him stand out from the hundreds of nominees, the magazine’s editor said at the time.
“Houlihan was one of the last of the old-style Irish working class bartenders who made it their business to take care of their customers and their families,” said Pat Fenton, a Windsor Terrace native.
Houlihan took his fat Farrell’s in 1965 serving patrols who still frequent the bar and who will remember him fondly, said Marian Kyrne, one of those regular customers.
In 1995, a year before he and co-owner Tim Horan bought Farrell’s, Houlihan worked with local firefighters to recruit 300 volunteers to repaint the nearby Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School — now St. Joseph the Worker — in a weekend, according to the New York Daily News. Houlihan helped raise thousands of dollars yearly, through golf outings to keep the school open, after the Diocese concluded it would be shuttered if it could not find a way to raise revenue.
The Farrell’s owner helped start a scholarship fund at now closed Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School in memory of Vinnie Brunton, a firefighter and occasional Farrell’s bartender who died on 9/11. Houlihan also organized and hosted a neighborhood reunion for 1,600 people that raised almost $50,000 for local churches, put on an annual event for cancer survivors, and hosted barbecues for a local senior home.
“The help he has given the neighborhood over the years is unreal,” wrote local blogger Steve Finamore in Container Diaries in 2020.
“It’s a great neighborhood,” Houlihan told Brooklyn Paper in 2015. “We take care of each other … The neighborhood always comes back to support Farrell’s.”
There will be a memorial mass at Holy Name Church on Saturday, October 15, at 10:00 AM, followed by a reception at the parish hall.