In March of 2022 Brian Govatos and Allison Tiné of Spanish Fork finished their basement complete with a dart and cricket board, popcorn and karaoke machines, an old piano, and green walls to match the color most loved by the Irish people themselves. Oh, and let’s not forget the pub-style tables, chairs, stage, and of course the bar area with taps that serve adult beverages.
There were two key words in that first paragraph that describe the overall theme of what Govatos and Tiné accomplished in the completion of the basement in their family’s home: Irish and pub.
That’s right. Inside this ordinary home is an Irish pub that Govatos says has not only been a great addition for his family, but for community members and visitors alike.
In fact, about a year ago was when Govatos went live with his basement, posting a tour of it on his YouTube channel. This tour caught the attention of media outlets from Utah to Ireland itself. It even received accolades from Irish pub-goers, saying that it looks and feels just like an Irish pub.
While Govatos said that a goal of building the basement pub was very much to resemble a place he, his wife and three children have gone to several times over the years, it was more about creating a place to entertain friends.
“When we moved down here two years ago, options were quite limited for places for grown-ups to go – and I’m not necessarily talking about bars,” Govatos said. “There just aren’t that many places for adults to hang out. If you live in Spanish Fork or Payson or even Provo, where do you go on a date night? We wanted to make a place where, first of all, we were able to stay home with the kids and hang out, and second, a place where other people would want to come and travel to. It’s almost like a built-in social network.”
Since finishing their basement, the couple has hosted open houses and events, and has had meet-up groups from local pub-enthusiasts. They’ve even had dozens of people who have come by just to see the inside of an Irish pub.
“I had a woman come by and say, ‘My husband is Irish, and we saw your video, and it reminded him of home. Could we stop by?’ Govatos recalled. “I’ve even hosted youth groups from members of the local church congregation who wanted to talk about Irish history and sing karaoke. We talk about the history of Irish pubs, and why they are so important to their culture. That’s the kind of community outreach I want: People not being afraid of things outside of their experience.”
Govatos said that he does his best to accommodate people when he’s able.
“When people stop by, we say that they can come over when we are having a get-together, and we’ve made some great friends out of it,” Govatos said. “People bring gifts and we talk about the whole pub experience of being social. People have brought their kids over, which we love. We have snacks. We play the piano and sing-alongs and stuff.”
An experience for the whole family
Govatos said that due to the culture in Utah, a lot of people are leery of the pub mainly due to a lack of exposure. He spoke about his first time going to a pub in Ireland when he and his wife brought their two kids. He said that it was actually quite eye opening to see children there.
“Many people here have a fear of things they aren’t exposed to, and alcohol is one of those things,” Govatos said. “If people are being drunk and crazy and rude and belligerent, that’s bad no matter where you’re at – and especially if you’re doing it around kids. If grownups are hanging around playing some fun games and singing karaoke with kids and being positive, that’s the definition of positive.
“It makes me feel sad when I get comments from people saying, ‘Well good luck! All those children will become alcoholics.’ “I think that it’s so sad that they feel so small about the world.
Many may be surprised to know that when you go to a pub in Ireland, you sit there and look around and realize that you’re in a place where people will every once in a while give their kids a tiny 2-ounce glass, and you’re not surrounded by alcoholics and people committing crimes.”
Govatos said that even though parts of their basement remodel may seem a little taboo to some, that it has been a great experience for his family to enjoy with the community and with themselves. In fact, one of the features of the pub has become a family affair. That feature is the piano.
Recently Govatos, Tiné and their three kids have all taken up piano lessons.
“My kids started doing so well in piano lessons, and then I remembered that I used to play and was actually quite good at it,” Govatos said. “I started taking lessons again after 25 years, and everyone is doing well. When people are doing so well, it’s hard not to focus on it.
“We have the old piano in the basement and a digital piano, but they aren’t cutting it for the types of pieces that we are starting to play,” Govatos said. “We are needing to upgrade, but that takes thousands of dollars that we don’t have right now.”
Govatos said that he has shared his family’s love for music by way of what he calls “Progress reports’’ with friends and community members, and that many have generously donated to help them get a piano through a Gofundme page titled, “Piano lovers! Help us build something improbable.”
Govatos said that much like the goal with the pub, his family wants to show people the beauty of classical music.
“We’re a crazy family who does artistic stuff and takes it seriously,” he joked. “I would love to hold concerts to do some edutainment. I’d love to let my family get your family to care a little bit about Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart.
“The whole point of this is to get the community engaged. I just want people to have those wow moments of ‘This is different and new and interesting and positive! Whether it’s with music or Irish pubs and culture. Host people in your house beyond cookies and soda poop. Host people in your house by doing something and really connecting and engaging with them is what it’s all about.”