Being the oldest bar in a big city lends itself to some easy marketing. People around town know where to find you, know what you do and, more importantly, know you do it welll. Add to that a St. Patrick’s Day party that has been around for 152 years, and you’ve got yourself a win-win situation.
In fact, that’s the story behind Philadelphia’s McGillin’s Olde Ale House.
“We’re the oldest bar in Philly, and by default that makes us the oldest St. Patrick’s Day party in Philly,” General Manager Christopher Mullins Jr., says. “We’re ground zero when it comes to all things Irish.”
Starting Feb. 24, McGillin’s countdown to St. Patrick’s Day begins with Irish specials, Irish stout and Irish bands.
This sets the tone for the party on March 17. “If we don’t see people all year, we’ll see them that day,” Mullins says.
Mullins explains that there’s a lot of preparation that goes into transforming McGillin’s into a St. Patrick’s Day hotspot. From the green décor to the green beer and Irish foods, St. Patrick’s Day at McGillin’s is an unforgettable all-day celebration.
For a $2 cover — a price “just enough to keep the riff raff out,” Mullins says — guests can enjoy the “One day when all things green are good."
McGillin’s staff gets rid of 90% of the tables and chairs on St. Patrick’s Day to make more room so people can “dance, party and hang out with their friends,” Mullins comments.
But taking out furniture also helps give people more room to interact. “We pack them in,” Mullins explains. “We open the doors at 10 a.m., but people will be in line by 9 a.m.,” he explains.
To prepare for the event, Mullins says there are certain things that require more planning. The bar hires police to help regulate crowds and seeks permits to close down the street on St. Patty’s Day, a precaution done for safety reasons. “We have thousands of people come through the building, so it’s more of a crowd control thing,” Mullins explains.
The bar also schedules 20 doormen to help aid with security, IDing patrons and preventing any problems that may arise.
“We don’t take anything for granted. We have lines down the street, and each and every customer is important,” he says. “ … Do we need the police? Maybe not. Do we need 20 doormen? Maybe not. We don’t want to take any chances.”
Although McGillin's has been around for more than a century, the staff “never rest on our laurels,” Mullins says. “We’re the oldest bar, but we work as if we’ve only been in a business for a year.”
“[Planning] really starts the day after the last [St. Patrick’s Day],” Mullins explains, noting that the staff reconvenes the day after and goes over what went well and what they can do better. “The day after is trying to talk through how the prior day went.”
“We’re defined by many things, and St. Patrick’s Day is one day that we get people that only come out on St. Patrick’s Day year after year after year,” Mullins notes.
The game plan for McGillin’s seems to be working because the St. Patrick’s Day party sees more than 1,500 people coming through the doors every year.