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Mac’s Cafe Closes for a Month of Major Renovations

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Mac’s Cafe Closes for a Month of Major RenovationsPhoto by Walker Evans.
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What’s a longtime Short North establishment to do when the surrounding neighborhood keeps changing? Change with it, says Mac’s Cafe owner Pat Melick. After 30 years, Mac’s is going through its first-ever update that’ll include a major face lift and menu overhaul going back to their roots as an Scottish pub.

Plans for renovations have been in the works for several years, but with the Short North sidewalk expansion and other construction projects underway nearby, now seemed the perfect time to get it over with, said Doug Sexton, an involved family member of the partners behind Mac’s.

The bar shut down for construction on May 13 with an expected reopening in mid-June. Upon reopening, they’ll drop the “Cafe” part of their name, going simply by “Mac’s” with the tagline, “A Proper Pub.” Inside will be a brand new space, floor to ceiling. The bar will be doubling in size, as will its offerings — Sexton said an expanded variety of scotch, whiskey, gin and rum will be available, as well as 18 beers on tap.

Four-tops and two-tops will populate the dining area, as well as some booths lining the wall. In place of their tinted glass windows, they’re installing retractable windows, offering some open air seating inside.

Rolling with the Scottish pub theme, the interior is aiming for warm and cozy, with mixed plaid patterns covering the seating and the wall behind the bar. They’re also reintroducing some of the more traditional dishes they first opened with, including steak pie, shepherd’s pie, cottage pie with bone marrow, Scottish salmon, meatloaf, and an open-face pot roast sandwich. Sexton said regulars need not worry — their Scotch eggs, sauerkraut balls, wings and burgers will all still be on the menu.

Their regulars are a concern as these changes fall into place, Sexton said. It’s tricky business navigating the needs of longtime customers while keeping up with the progress going on around them. As other Short North business pioneers have come and gone, Mac’s is adapting to what’s increasingly a corporate neighborhood.

“The neighborhood is not what it was 30 years ago. It’s changed,” Melick said. “You know, you’ve got a bunch of corporate places down here now. That wasn’t here 30 years ago. And if you’re going to compete with those guys, you kind of gotta act like you’re corporate.”

Melick maintains that while everything at Mac’s is going to get a lot cleaner, newer and shinier, it’s still the neighborhood pub they opened up as. But, Sexton added, it’s adapt or get left behind:

“We still wanna keep the character of the Short North as a whole, so you need to be protective of the history,” Sexton said, “but if you buck progress, you’ll probably be left in the dust, and we’ve gotta embrace it. So, we’re not going to sit here and complain about things, we’re going to try and improve them.”

Mac’s is located at 693 N. High St.

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