Many establishments across the nation have been preparing to rake in the green for St. Patrick’s Day this year, as Irish Americans and “Irish for a day” opportunists look to celebrate the holiday with food, family and fun ... and drinks.
With the holiday falling on a Friday this year, the National Retail Federation said that retailers could expect a boost in sales as consumers shell out for themed apparel, decor, good eats, and drinks. In its annual St. Patrick’s Day spending survey, the NRF said Americans were expected to spend a total of $5.3 billion celebrating.
Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed by the NRF said they planned to head to a party at a bar or restaurant. The desire to celebrate may be a bit higher in the City of Brotherly Love, though; after weighing the traditions, costs, accessibility, and weather of the country’s 200 largest cities, WalletHub ranked Philly the ninth best city for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Even better: Philly was among six towns with the lowest average price for a party ticket.
McGillin’s Olde Ale House — said to be the city’s oldest continuously operating tavern, which would make it the oldest Irish tavern in Philly — expected to have a line out the door from noon on March 17 until midnight the next day. It’s number one seller, owner Chris Mullins said, is usually the green beer.
McGilllin’s is among the Philadelphia businesses that say they’ve been reaping the holiday’s benefits since the beginning of March. “We call it St. Patrick’s Month,” Mullins chuckled.
Mullins said the tavern does about 20 percent more business in March than it does in February, part of which comes from the March Madness and Flower Show crowds, with the latter attracting 250,000 visitors to the Pennsylvania Convention Center over a weeklong period. But there’s no doubting the Irish holiday’s contribution to the tavern’s uptick.
“As soon as March kicks in, people start thinking about Irish pubs,” Mullins said.
The NRF survey projects that 41 percent of St. Paddy’s Day participants will purchase beverages, and that 52 percent will buy food.
Equipped with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s blessing to eat meat this St. Patrick’s Day, which happens to fall on Friday during Lent this year, more Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia could be spending on dishes involving corned beef, too.
Restaurant The Plough & The Stars is particularly pleased about this. Manager Louise Morin said the spot plays host to a big annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, which includes Irish bacon and sausage.
But The Plough’s breadwinner, so to speak, is its Irish soda bread. Though it offers the bread year-round, Morin said it sells about 40 percent more in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
Census data shows that, as of 2010, about 15 percent of Pennsylvania’s population was Irish, making it one of the most Irish states in America.
Fergus Carey, owner of Fergie’s Pub near Sansom and South 12th Streets, said he moved to America from Dublin, Ireland 30 years ago. He’s ambivalent about the type of enthusiasm associated with the holiday these days.
“I think now it’s just turned into a drinking festival ... there’s a lot more to Ireland than drinking,” Carey said. “I mean, it’s good for my business, but I also want to be respectful to my culture.”
Still, the business doesn’t hurt.
While Fergie’s doesn’t take part in the Erin Express, a popular bar crawl that buses celebrants around to more than a dozen bars around Philly in the weekends surrounding St. Paddy’s Day, participants usually find their way over to the pub.
“We sell a lot of Guinness,” Carey said. “We’ll probably have sold five times as much Guinness this week than usual.”