Learning comes in all shapes and sizes. But some of the best is paired with good food, good drink, and great conversation.

This past week, I got to travel to the wintry East for a conference on criminal justice. I wrote before about how I managed to be named a Fellow, which garnered an all-expense-paid learning opportunity. Thank you to the Guggenheim Foundation and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice!

I’ll report later more about the conference and its roster of noteworthy speakers. For our Friday Change of Venue Day, though, I write about the conference’s kickoff session.

Given that the invitees were 26 journalists, it was a stroke of genius to host the first event in a bar.

Pardon me. I meant to say “public house.”

Kennedy’s Restaurant has been on West 57th Street for a generation or more. And that is where we gathered on Sunday evening, Jan. 31. We met for the first time and chatted about stories and story ideas. It was a wonderful event. But none of us knew it would be historic.

What we found out that night was that Kennedy’s was shutting its doors after last call—perhaps forever. Spiraling values in New York City real estate (even in a down economy) had led to a landlord–tenant conflict that could not be resolved. So the restaurant owners made the difficult decision to close up shop rather than pay a suddenly spiking rent.

Our event had been scheduled far in advance. But due to the oddity of circumstances, our kickoff was held alongside people enjoying and reveling in an evening that would signal the end of an era.

Not a bad analogy for journalism, come to think of it.

I took a few poor cell-phone pictures of the great old establishment (see below).

After I got home, I read more about the then-closed Kennedy’s. I was pleased to see it had been mentioned in 2010 by Esquire Magazine. As they described it in their “What Men Eat” offering:

The best Irish pubs in America do not look correct. They don’t look Hibernian or Celtic or some corporate idea of Hibernian or Celtic. They look only vaguely “Irish.” Take Kennedy’s, the closest decent bar to Esquire’s offices. Its stuff on the walls is actual stuff. Its patina is actually aged. The amiability of its bartenders seems genuine enough. And its fish-and-chips tastes and looks like exactly what you’re imagining right now. Exactly. It’s an American–Irish pub that is not trying too hard to be a pub. It just is one.

327 West 57th Street; 212-759-4242

Click here for more on Kennedy’s via Esquire.com (it is number 18 in the slideshow)

Have a great weekend, pub or no pub. And here are the photos.

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