Pubs get their Irish up

COURTESY J.C. WOOLOUGHAN'S IRISH PUB Michelle Bacigalupi, director of marketing for JW Marriott Las Vegas, said J.C. Wooloughan's Irish Pub revelers range in age on St. Patrick's Day, and the most popular drink is Guinness.

When Irish car bombs, shots of Jameson and green beer take up residence in thirsty pub crawlers’ hands, you know it’s St. Patrick’s Day.

Inside the valley’s roughly 10 Irish pubs, bartenders, servers and patrons don the festive green representing the Emerald Isle while Irish rock bands take center stage. However, a different type of green comes to mind for the owners of these bars, especially when they’re seeing more than 1,000 customers come through their doors in a single day.

J.C. Wooloughan’s Irish Pub inside the JW Marriott Las Vegas is expecting that number. Michelle Bacigalupi, director of marketing for the hotel, said revelers range from older folks wanting an authentic Irish bite to the barely legal set wanting to drink all the green beer they can get.

On the big day, expect pubs to provide live entertainment and pack the place to capacity. At J.C. Wooloughan’s, management opens up the back courtyard to make room for more customers.
“It’s the best day of the year for us,” Bacigalupi said.

The pub averages 10 times more in food and beverage sales on March 17 than on the same day of the week a week earlier.

“It’s the shot in the arm the pub needs every year,” Bacigalupi said.

And a good shot it is. Most bars charge a cover to get in on March 17. J.C. Wooloughan’s will take $20 per head at the door after 3 p.m., while Rí Rá Las Vegas will charge $10. Rí Rá’s capacity is 999.

Then, there’s the alcohol sales. Bacigalupi said Guinness is the most popular drink on St. Patrick’s Day, followed closely by shots of Jameson. She estimates between 1,500 and 1,800 beers will be sold on March 17.

Scott Sherman, general manager of Rí Rá Las Vegas, said he has ordered 100 kegs of beer for March 17. A European keg serves 80 drinks, and an American fills 100. Average cost for a Guinness is $6.50.

Because of the ample willingness of patrons to buy drink after drink on the Irish holiday, competition is rampant in Las Vegas.

“It’s fierce,” Bacigalupi said. “There’s a lot of great Irish pubs in the city.”

On March 16, the Thomas & Mack Center is hosting the Dublin Down Festival featuring Celtic punk band Flogging Molly. Bacigalupi said even though the event is the day before St. Patrick’s Day, it could have an effect on local pubs’ business the next night if partiers are tuckered out.

“We think the more people who come into town for St. Patrick’s Day, it’s better for us,” Sherman said. “I’m expecting a 40 percent to 50 percent bump over last year.”

To maximize the earning potential on March 17, Rí Rá is opening its doors at 5:30 a.m. to allow patrons to watch the three Six Nations Rugby matches — Italy versus Scotland, Wales versus France and England versus Ireland.

Also, many pubs start the St. Patrick’s Day party a few days early. J.C. Wooloughan’s, for example, is starting its festivities on March 14 with live entertainment and drink specials. Rí Rá Las Vegas will hold a St. Patrick’s Day festival March 16-18 featuring live music.

If bars really want to capitalize and make themselves stand out from the rest, Jon Taffer, president of Nightclub & Bar Media Group, suggested not following the status quo.

“Everybody’s going to have green beer,” Taffer began. “I get that, but you don’t have to have the same product.”

He suggested instead hosting an event that draws people in, such as eating corned beef off a model’s body or organizing a cabbage bowling tournament.

“There are so many things that somebody can do, if they don’t do it, shame on them,” Taffer said.

Source: Laura Carroll,


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