A Proper Pint for Every Purse

Taps at McCoole's Red Lion in Quakertown, PA

My point of view as to what makes for a great pub is predicated on three things: ambiance, a good selection of beer, and most importantly, an atmosphere that makes every person that walks through the door feel welcome. Much like the former Bull and Finch in Boston, which the popular television series Cheers was based on, those praiseworthy establishments hold the postman and the patrician in equal regard–and of course, they always provide a proper pint for every purse.

One of the more disturbing themes being voiced throughout last month’s Republican National Convention was the call to save our suburbs from the violent unrest plaguing many of our nation’s urban communities. In their bid to spread fear among suburban voters, the President and his supporters are making the case that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for tear gas on the tennis court and carnage in the cabana. Republicans are counting on the fact that since most of the cities experiencing the violence are governed by Democrats, they will be able to win over those center-right voters that might be leaning toward Joe Biden’s vision for America. While the GOP may have the stats on their side, the main reason why so many of our cities favor Democrats is simply because these large urban areas are home to the majority of people that comprise this country’s racial, religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity–a diversity that the Republican party has mostly failed to embrace.

Earlier this summer, the President and his HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, co-authored an op-ed piece pledging to protect American suburbs from government-mandated low-income housing. While I believe that communities have to right to their autonomy when it comes to zoning, what we have here is just another thinly-veiled dog-whistle by the administration pitting black against white and rich against poor. This may not qualify as a blatant example of systemic racism, but it certainly reflects blatant classism–neither one moving us any closer to that ever-elusive more perfect union!

I grew up in an older sub-urbanized town on the Jersy side of the Hudson River during the 1960s–a period sadly similar in terms of the politics, race relations, and economic inequities. The white flight of that period certainly played a part in defining who we were as a community, and unfortunately, that definition included a substantial measure of intolerance and racism. But while the town of Teaneck had its shortcomings, it did provide equal access to affordable shelter, quality healthcare, public transportation, and good schools to all of its citizens. Whether you were considered underpaid or overpaid for your 40 hours away from the wife and kids, you could at least take care of the basic needs and maintain some level of human dignity. What is shocking and unforgivable is that in the year 2020, many of our nation’s poor and minorities can not make a similar claim!

A Pint from the Wharf Rat in Baltimore

So what does any of this have to do with my penchant for filtering my point of view through the bottom of a pint glass or some pub-centric metaphorical reference to a 70s sitcom? Well, while I don’t particularly want to exist in a world where everybody knows my name, I would like to at least live in a country where everybody’s glad you came!

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Click on the PodBean logo or go to Sit Downs and Sessions to hear our take on this summer’s political conventions.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Mind Your Mouth at McGillin’s

While I am not in the habit of sharing images of myself, and the adjacent photo of this Rogues Galleryauthor circa 1984 might certainly explain why, it is regrettably the only visual record of my time as a tavern owner in Hoboken, New Jersey. That particular chapter in my life would be the first time I would be directly responsible for seeing over the employment of others. And when it came to vetting potential bartenders, I always made it a point to include the following question during an interview. Who do think is most likely responsible for starting the majority of physical altercations in a bar?

Most of the responses to my query would place the blame squarely on the shoulders of those aggressive and angry souls that had lubricated their penchant for hostile action with too much drink. And while I agree that alcohol can easily be cast into that role of the metaphorical accelerant, it is seldom the cause of the fire–and the initial spark often  comes from a source not easily recognized. It has been my experience that many times the person in charge behind the bar, either by design or ignorance, puts the match to that slow fuse. A situation that could have been calmed with a kind word or bit more tact, instead is left to smolder until that which was merely a minor indiscretion erupts into something that leaves someone broken and bleeding on the floor.

It is incumbent upon all of us to understand that our words and our tone will very often be the catalyst of our future confrontations.

After enduring the red-faced rhetoric of last week’s Republican Convention, one might come to the conclusion that our ability to come to terms with those issues that divide Americans can only be addressed in what amounts to some sort of national barbarroom brawl. Dignity and decorum be damned. But while integrity and statesmanship may have been lacking at the podium of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, those fine customers across the way at Flannery’s Irish Pub, that just happened to be the setting for MSNBC’s Morning Joe convention coverage, helped to restore some of my teetering faith in our ability to overcome our differences in a peaceful manner.

McGillin's

With the Democrats now at bat in Philadelphia, the pundits at Morning Joe have set up shop at one our very favorite Philly taverns–McGillin’s Olde Ale House. William “Pa” McGillin first opened his doors to the public in 1860 during our last war of civil discord. The business began operations as the Bell-in-Hand, and it continued on as such until William McGillin’s death in 1901. The lead role for the second act of this much celebrated saloon on Drury Street would be passed on to Catherine “Ma”McGillin. This beloved, no-nonsense lady ran a proper public house that welcomed anyone just as long they were well-behaved and respectful of their fellow patrons.

When Catherine McGillin left to stand her round at Heaven’s long bar in 1937, thousands turned out to say goodbye as her funeral procession made its way along Broad Street. It was a testament to the ability of a women to meet and, quite possibly, surpass the accomplishments of her male predecessor–an interesting proposition as the Democrats make their case to a somewhat skeptical electorate.

But whatever the American voters ultimately decide, McGillin’s will continue on as that revered institution that provides the perfect gathering place for those among us that choose to cast-off the cynicism and strive to restore reason and civility to our political discourse!

McGillin's OwnersToday McGillin’s is owned and operated by  Christopher Mullins, his wife, Mary Ellen Spaniak Mullins, and their son, Chris Junior. Click on the family image to enjoy a podcast that includes an in-depth history, a tale of haunting, and a bit of humor from former patron W.C. Fields.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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