Pub manager realizes American dream
PUNTA GORDA — Max Doyle, who at age 3 moved with his parents to the U.S. when they illegally immigrated from England in 1982, felt like he became an American at age 9 or 10 after playing baseball with his American classmates.
“That’s when it started,” he said this week. “That’s when I felt like I fit in. That’s when I felt like an American.”
However his American dream wasn’t fully realized until Tuesday, when he became a legal U.S. citizen.
Now he knows that he can’t be deported from the country he has considered home for the past couple of decades.
“It’s way overdue,” he said. “It’s something I just kind of put off. It’s time. I’ve never wanted to live in any other country. It’s the best country there is.”
For much of the past decade, Doyle, 32, has been working as manager for the Celtic Ray at 145 E. Marion Ave., which is owned by his father, Kevin Doyle. Max was born in Manchester, England.
Kevin, who originally hails from Ireland, said he traveled to Punta Gorda on a two-week tourist visa in 1982 to visit his sister. After a few days, however, Kevin said he sent for his wife and son.
“I decided to stay, and deal with the legal stuff later,” Kevin said.
The family moved to Orlando, where Kevin worked as a bartender in an English pub in the United Kingdom Pavilion at Epcot. At the time, Kevin was classified by U.S. immigration as a resident alien. Kevin became a citizen in 1995.
He said he and his wife opened the Celtic Ray in 1997, and divorced not long afterward. Max Doyle lived with his mother, going through public schools in California and Massachusetts.
Max said his immigration status was never questioned because of the way his father had enrolled him in kindergarten, when the family lived in Virginia Beach for a stint.
Kevin said he wrote on a form that his son was born in Manchester, UK, but, his pen slipped. The “U” kind of closed so it looked like an “O,” as in Oklahoma, he said.
Max somehow received a Social Security card and worked odd jobs beginning at age 14. At 18, he returned to Punta Gorda to visit his father; and at age 21, he decided to work in the pub.
“I felt a little bit of pride, to see what my dad had created,” he said.
Kevin said his aim has been to establish an authentic Irish pub.
“It’s a public gathering place,” he said. “It’s like everybody’s extended living room.”
Max said he shares the same values as his father, “just a different generation.”
His father, for example, books most of the traditional Irish folk musicians that perform at the pub. Max, a budding stand-up comic, has added comedy nights and rockabilly, blues and funk acts to the schedule.
At one point, Max traveled to England, where he lived with an uncle while working in pubs. He said he was trying to explore his “roots.” The experience made him determined to gain U.S. citizenship, he said.
“I realized that we have it really good in America,” he said. “It’s just the way of living over there is really tough. The wages and costs of living don’t really add up. People are happier here. There’s more hope.”
To become a citizen, Max first obtained a work visa, then a green card. After some seven years, he became eligible to apply for citizenship. He passed a physical, registered for selective service and passed a test on U.S. government without missing a question.
“I felt relieved, very relieved, and proud,” he said.
Asked whether he supports the Dream Act, which would grant amnesty for children brought into the U.S. illegally if they graduate college and demonstrate good character, Max replied, “That’s me.”
Kevin, however, said the U.S. should clamp down on illegal immigration.
“It should be difficult to get in, because everybody in the world wants to get in,” he said. “Just being able to start a business with nothing — you couldn’t do that anywhere else.”