INTRODUCTIONS: Meet the Lees

Keeping their father’s legacy alive

Standing just off Chippewa Square at the corner of McDonough and Drayton sits an institution of Savannah that has tended to locals and visitors alike for 35 years.

McDonough’s Restaurant and Lounge was opened in 1987 by long-time Savannahian, the late Billy Lee who passed away in December, 2017. 

Today, his children, Deborah and Joseph, continue the tradition, managing the restaurant and bar into one of Savannah’s favorite local spots. In fact, McDonough’s was just named the winner of the Connect Savannah “Bar Room Brawl,” voted the best spot to be on St. Patrick’s Day in the Hostess City.

“We’ve been here a long time…35 years this year,” said Joseph Lee, one of the managers. “The story goes that Dad [Billy Lee] opened up on St. Patrick’s Day in 1987. I was born in April 1987, so I have literally been here my whole life,” he said.

Lee’s older siblings, Deborah and Mike, have each worked 20 plus years, and Joseph is happy to make his mark, as well. 

“We have all put a lot into the place and putting our best feet forward since Dad passed away. It’s certainly been an experience, but I know he’d be proud of us for what we’ve done together as a family.”

Lee continued, “We also have a great team here. Great leadership and great organizing and planning going into St. Patrick’s Day, which, of course, is one of our busiest times of the year.”

Locals and visitors alike will attest to the authenticity of McDonough’s pub fare, drinks, and great music. The week of St. Patrick’s Day offers something for everyone.

“We have our Tuesday night Creature Comforts trivia and then the bagpipers will play at 9 p.m.,” Lee said. “That will be the taking-off point for our traditional festivities. We’ll have Guinness happy hour Tuesday through Friday afternoons, Jameson specials, DJs every night, and starting at noon on Thursday.

McDonough’s offers their traditional St. Patrick’s Day breakfast buffet from 7 – 10 a.m. for $15 per person.

“We’re just happy to get back to what we do best and have folks fill the restaurant and bar.”

Most know McDonough’s as one of the best karaoke spots in Savannah, it also offers families and friends opportunities to connect and make memories for years to come.

“The success of McDonough’s is due to Billy Lee’s heart and spirit,” a server noted while moving busily about.

As for winning the award, Lee is humbled. “This was the first time we’ve participated and it was a great experience. We loved it and it’s great news that we won,” Lee said between replacing TV remote batteries and triaging a computer issue. “Our marketing got it done for us. They’ve worked so hard. Our social media helped quite a bit, too,” he said. “We’ve streamlined a lot of what we have to offer, but most of all, we want everyone here for St. Patrick’s Day to know that Savannah is back in business.”

Even though McDonough’s managed through two years of the COVID pandemic, they’re happy to see some “normalcy” return.

“Through all of it, we remained open. And now, we’ve got this two-week venture with a lot of people in town and our goal is to take care of them and make them feel at home.”

Lee said, “We’re honored to be part of this community—a fixture of downtown—and we appreciate the support of locals and visitors alike. We just want folks to come by, hang out, and enjoy the fun environment while we all enjoy being Irish for a day.”


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