Tripp Rogers knew a long time ago that he wanted to live in the South. After spending eight years of his childhood in Atlanta before his family decided to move back to their hometown of Washington, D.C., Rogers fell in love with the South’s charm and decided he would come back one day. So after graduating high school, that’s exactly what he did: He moved to Alabama, and pretty much never left.
“I knew when I came down to school that if I could ever stay and live here, I’d do it, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do that.” Rogers said.
Now, Rogers not only lives in Tuscaloosa, but he is one of the owners of Innisfree Irish Pub and the Copper Top Bar. He also co-owns a second Innisfree, located in Birmingham, with his two partners Mike McInerney and Derick Purdy.
Long before Rogers became the successful businessman he is today, he was a communications major at the University of Alabama. After graduation, Rogers got a gig working in broadcast for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. But once the games ended, Rogers was now living in Georgia and wasn’t really sure what to do next. The answer came in the form of a business offer from a friend back in Tuscaloosa, who wanted us to open up a Planet Smoothie and wanted Rogers to get in on it.
“I was like well, why not, you only live once,” Rogers said.
So Rogers moved back to Tuscaloosa to open his first business. After a couple of years running Planet Smoothie, he decided it might be more lucrative to try his hand at running a bar instead.
Back when Rogers was attending the University of Alabama, his current partner and childhood friend McInerney was living in New Orleans, where he attended Tulane University. Once during a visit to the Big Easy, the two went to an Irish pub called O’Flaherty’s, which would later serve as inspiration for the opening of Innisfree.
“We decided that if we ever wanted to do something, it would be awesome to own an Irish pub,” Rogers said.
Then later in 1997, years after visiting New Orleans, Rogers and his friends were sitting around one day, and this time he was the one who had a business offer. He proposed that if they really wanted to own a bar, he’d go out and find a building. So Rogers got in his car, drove around Tuscaloosa, found a location on Greensboro Avenue, met up with the building’s owners and told them what he wanted to do.
So they had a location ready to go, but the road to Innisfree was not an easy one. They were turned down by four banks in a row, all wary of loaning money to a couple of guys fresh out of college, looking to open a bar. Refusing to take no for an answer, they tried again, and the fifth time was the charm. Grateful for the chance being given to them, Rogers told the man at the bank “It will not fail, I promise you.” And so Innisfree Irish Pub was born.
The summer of 1998, they opened Innisfree’s doors, with hardly a penny in the bank and all the money from their pockets being used to fill the lone cash register. The next two years were spent doing everything they could to ensure Innisfree wouldn’t fail; Rogers says he only left Tuscaloosa a total of three days during that time. Despite the hurdles in the beginning, all of their hard work paid off: just five years after opening on Greensboro Avenue, they opened a second Innisfree in Birmingham, and then by 2003 they had become the owners of the Copper Top Bar.
By 2008, Innisfree’s popularity had grown and needed more room, and they also wanted to start serving food. So after being open for 10 years at the original location, they decided it was time to relocate. Rogers says they tried to model the main room at the current location after the original, so when you walk in you see basically all of the same memorabilia on the walls as the first one. Also, the bar in the main room is the same one he built 17 years ago when they first opened, that way no one could forget where they came from.
Rogers explains that they got the idea for the bar’s name after The Lake Isle of Innisfree, a poem by W.B. Yeats. In the poem, the man wants to find an escape from the harsh reality of everyday life, and Innisfree served as that escape for him. So the idea was that Innisfree Irish Pub could serve as that same escape for anyone who wants it.
“We want people to come here and just relax and have a good time,” Rogers said. “Anyone that knows me knows that if someone’s not having fun, it upsets me; it’s the main thing I care about.”
And it’s not just the customers coming to Innisfree that Rogers is concerned about having a good time. He says that Innisfree will always be a place for his employees to come back to, whether it’s for a job if something doesn’t work out for them, or just to visit on a game day.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “I just hope that once people work here, it makes them a better person to go out in the real world.”
As for the possibility of another location opening, Rogers says that while they’re probably going to stick with what they have, they want someone else to do what they’ve done and open their own Innisfree. Doing this would mean someone really caring about it and building on their own, and willing to be its owner and operator.
“For Innisfree to be Innisfree, it needs to be someone that wants to do it, and wants to make it that town’s bar,” Rogers said.
Rogers says that in the beginning, they really just wanted to open a bar so they could have a place to hang out with friends. Little did he know that it would turn in to so much more than that.
“We thought we’d do this for a few years, have a good time, then go get real jobs,” Rogers said. “Now, 17 years later and we’re still serving our friends, and now our friends are coming back with their kids, and it’s just been really fun.”
And after 17 years of being in business, Rogers has seen the change and growth that has occurred to the nightlife of Tuscaloosa. When Innisfree first opened, there weren’t many places bringing people downtown, and there wasn’t much in between there and the Strip. Now, downtown has it’s own wide variety of bars and restaurants, and more businesses are bringing attraction to the gap in between downtown and the Strip, including Innisfree. With so much available, and a lot of it within walking distance of everyone in the area, you don’t have to go far to find what you want.
“I just love it down here, Tuscaloosa is definitely one of the greatest cities in the South, if not the best in my opinion,” Rogers said. “It’s fun and it has a lot to offer, and it’s only getting better.”

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