Philadelphia’s night life is anything but ordinary, so when Saint Patrick’s Day arrives, it’s important to choose where you celebrate the unofficially drinking holiday.
“The Temple News” is here to make your choice a bit easier, especially after interviewing Chris Mullins, owner of McGillin’s, the oldest tavern in the city.
The Temple News: What is the craziest St. Patty’s Day debauchery you’ve ever seen?
Chris Mullins: They are all crazy. They’re all a blur to me. I’d have to say the funniest story wasn’t here; it was at my first bar. There was an Irish priest and it was his first time not in Ireland. I said to him, ‘How does this compare,’ and he said, ‘This was a blast. At home you have to get up early, you have to say mass, you have to watch a parade and then we go and have a family dinner. Here, it’s party time.’
TTN: How is your family connected to the history of the pub?
CM: My personal family is not; my wife’s father and uncle owned this bar for 35 years. My wife and I owned two Irish pubs previous to this. So when we sold our last one, [her] father was ready to retire and we took over the bar. ttn: How did your wife’s family come about buying the tavern?
CM: The McGillin’s family owned it from 1860 to 1958, which is 98 years. At that point, no one wanted to run the business anymore. My wife’s father was a bartender here, and he bought it, and his family started to run the pub.ttn: What do you think it means to be Irish in Philadelphia? Does Philly have Irish pride?
CM: Oh, we have Irish pride. We’re not the biggest ethnic group in Philadelphia, that’s the Italians, but we do make our mark. Being Irish is just symbolic of what it means to be American. The Irish used to do the jobs that no one wanted to do.
TTN: How is McGillin’s celebrating St. Patty’s Day?
CM: We actually start four weeks before with an Irish band. So, that was in February and we have a live band here for a couple of nights. And then we decorate and have green beer throughout the weeks preceding. We have Irish food such as shepherd’s pie, fish and chips and corn beef and cabbage.
TTN: How do you compare to other Irish pubs in Philly? What do you offer that they don’t?
CM: Philadelphia is very fortunate to have dozens and dozens
of Irish pubs and bars. So our unique status is that we are the oldest Irish and non-Irish bar.
TTN: Have you ever had authentic Irish visitors? What do they say about the pub?
CM: All the time. Thankfully our bar has Irish soul or ‘craic,’ which means Irish soul (in Irish Gaelic language). The bar was actually designed by an Irishman, who was an architect in England, so it also has a very English feel to it. It’s not like your country Irish bar, we’re a little larger and more like a Dublin or England pub.
TTN: Why has McGillin’s succeeded in Philadelphia?CM: It’s because it’s been an occupied family-run business. Just like every small business, it’s like a family farm. The owners have always had their hand in the business. We’ve always been fortunate enough to own our businesses, so no one can kick us out.
Sara J. Gamble can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.