Philadelphia’s oldest tavern toasts 150 years

The oldest continuously operated bar in Philadelphia (and one of the oldest in the country) began celebrating its sesquicentennial this week. McGillin’s Old Ale House opened in 1860, the year President Lincoln was elected, making it almost 150 years old.

While the anniversary isn’t technically until 2010, McGillin’s decided to start the party 150 days in advance, so if you find yourself in Philly, stop in and raise a glass. The bar has already started brewing and selling a special 1860 IPA and has a full schedule of anniversary events lined up, like book signings, an Oktoberfest party, and a Fall festival.

The pre-Civil-War tavern has a colorful history. When the original owner died, his wife took over the business and kept a list of troublemakers not allowed in. Among them was her own father. Locals consider the bar a Philadelphia institution and its “old-time character” has earned it spots on lists like America’s Most Authentic Irish Pubs (even though it doesn’t serve Guinness) and Coolest Bars in the U.S.

[via USA Today]

Drink up and stay the night at the old Catholic school in Bend, Oregon

There’s something deliciously wrong about turning a Catholic schoolhouse into a pub and brewery, but in Bend, Oregon, the delicious far outweighs the wrong. When the St. Francis School relocated, Portland-based McMenamins bought up the original building, renovated it, and reopened the Old St. Francis School as a pub, theater, and hotel in 2004.

McMenamins brews are an Oregon staple, and the restaurant has some of the best pub fare there is. The School is also a great place to catch a show. This weekend, Old St. Francis is host to the BENDFilm Festival. Then there’s Monday Night Football, more movies, and live music. Coming up in November is the pub’s Fourth Anniversary Weekend Party, featuring performances from the Freak Mountain Ramblers.

The property has guest rooms starting at $114 per night and cottages that sleep up to ten people, starting at $185 per night. All reservations include free admission to the movie theater and use of the Turkish-style soaking pool on the property. You can also purchase special packages that include meals, drinks, shows, and activities in and around Bend.

Can there be a better place to party than an old Catholic school?

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Dispatches from around the world

Halal Inn — Britain’s first Islamic pub. Huh?

Britain’s first Islamic pub “Halal Inn” recently opened its doors in Oldham. It’s being marketed as a “pub” that offers everything any pub would, except alcohol. So…urrr…it’s a cafe, no? A cafe where you can play pool, listen to Islamic music, eat Asian food. So it’s a cafe targeted to the Muslim population in Oldham.

Fine. It’s great to have hangouts that adhere to certain cultural/religious rules, it offers diversity — I’m happy that people are building places catering to specific lifestyles.

Non-Muslims may not understand how significant this place may be for Muslims, but why can’t they market it like that then? I mean: it’s not a pub (so don’t call it one); it’s not for non-Muslim people — if it was an open establishment welcoming everyone who wants to go out and not drink, they would not call it “Halal Inn”; the article says that although everyone is welcome, the crowd is predominantly male.

So to rephrase: Britain has opened its first Islamic cafe for Muslim men. Good for them. But why is this place being glorified to deceive? It’s not a novel concept, in fact, it’s not even a clear concept.

Instead of trying to modernize and open a clearly Islamic idea by tagging it an “pub”, they would have been better off (and more successful) if they made it into a full-fledged cultural cafe, perhaps more “Arab” style than Muslim. Sheesha, Arabic music, ethnic decor, typical Islamic food, Arabic tea from a big mud pot, etc; then it would have a concept, serve the Muslim population, and be of cultural interest to a much wider audience.

Love from London: Why pubs still close at 11pm

Last year was supposed to reverse the long British tradition of closing all pubs at 11pm. This decision created a lot of controversy. Supporters claimed that allowing people to drink longer would prevent them from binge-drinking, while others claimed that people would drink even more.

I, personally, was psyched to hear that pubs would get all-night liquor licenses because there is almost nothing sadder than hearing the sound of that damn bell announcing last drink order when you are just starting to have a good time.

Since I am in London this week, I was curious to see how the 24-hour drinking laws changed the nightlife dynamic in London. I am here to report that virtually nothing has changed. Most pubs still close at 11pm. I asked a friend who lives here and she said that pubs must pay more money and benefits to their employees if they stay open past 11pm. That’s why most of them still close at 11pm.

At the same time, today’s Times had an article about alcohol consumption. It turns out that Britons are heavier drinkers than even the Russians, according to official data from the World Health Organization. These kinds of statistics are apparently making people review the 24-hour drinking laws.

Looks like that bell is not going away anytime soon.

Love from London: The best pub in Britain

As you well know, the Brits take their pubs very seriously, so nobody should be surprised that they actually vote for the best pub in the country every year. The judges say the competition “analyzes all the criteria that makes a good pub – including the quality of the beer, atmosphere, décor, customer service, clientele mix and value for money.”

According to the Times Online, the The Old Spot Inn in Dursley, Gloucestershire, a 100-year-old inn has won the 2008 Pub of the Year award from the Campaign for Real Ale, “despite having no juke box, pool table, fruit machine or theme.” Fruit machine or theme, I love that.

You can actually watch the video to get a feel for the atmosphere here, but I’ll tell you – when it comes to pub crawling, virtual reality doesn’t really come close to the real thing. We’ll have to wait for some sort of “Third Life” before we can actually enjoy a virtual beer.