WESTBOROUGH – It was Westborough’s version of the TV show “Cheers.” When regulars descended into the Pic’s cozy darkened cellar under 5 Milk Street, many called out their names. It seemed that everybody knew everybody. This first Piccadilly Pub became a beloved watering hole, begun at the downtown rotary in 1973 by William C. (Billy) Martin.
Paula Kane, called “PK,” was a well-known employee there from 1982 to 2007. “In the beginning, the Pic was a novelty,” she remembered. “There was no other family-oriented pub in the area.”
At first a doorman was hired to help people down the stairs from the entrance, and there was a dress code of no jeans. “People loved the unique atmosphere,” noted Kane. “They used to stand in line on the sidewalk, waiting to get in.”
The Pic became celebrated for its seafood, especially lobster rolls, fish and chips, and alligator wings. The servers kept the popcorn flowing and circulated with warm, freshly baked corn bread.
A long bar of natural wood was a striking feature, where the Pic’s famed oversized “King and Queen” cocktails were served. Only fresh fruits were used to create the Pic’s specialty drinks.
“Whole families came in all the time, and everyone was so congenial,” Kane recalled. “The waitresses knew the regular customers’ favorite seats and meals. I watched their kids grow up. When those kids returned home from college, they would meet their high school friends for reunions at the Pic.”
Billy Martin worked hard at building up the first Piccadilly Pub, helped by his wife Gail and three children. Observed Kane, “Billy had a new concept. His dream was to start a different kind of restaurant―a pub where families were welcome.”
With his inspiration, perseverance, and business acumen, Billy Martin built a dynasty of 13 Piccadilly Pubs. At their height, the chain spread across Massachusetts and Connecticut. Billy had realized his American Dream.
“Billy loved hunting and fishing,” Kane noted. “An avid sportsman, he belonged to an international fishing club. He brought ideas for menus back to the pub from his fishing trips all over the world. Photographs of his best catches were mounted and hung on the walls of the Pic,” she added.
Every year, the Pic would host a “Charity Night” to raise funds for nonprofit health-related causes. Thanks to Dale Chambers, an associate who worked for Titleist, Charity Night at the Pic featured renowned athletes.
Said Kane, “I remember Charity Nights that featured Larry Bird, as well as Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and announcer Johnny Most from the Celtics. Bobby Orr from the Bruins and Steve Grogan and Steve Nelson from the Patriots also came.”
“People were very excited to meet their sports heroes here in their hometown,” Kane recalled. “The athletes were so friendly.”
On Charity Night, the sports champions would sign autographs, auction team memorabilia, and serve food to raise funds for different charities.
In February 2012, all the restaurants in the chain were closed. The next year many reopened under a new owner, but the original Piccadilly Pub on the downtown rotary in Westborough never did. The era of a cellar watering hole―that served up not only comfort food but also lasting friendships―had drawn to an end.