Recipe for Recovery: McGillin's Old Ale House reopens after 6 months

Alicia Vitarelli Image
Friday, September 18, 2020
McGillin's Old Ale House reopens after 6 months
At Philadelphia's oldest bar, they are finally toasting to what feels like a grand reopening.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There's something big to celebrate when Philadelphia's local businesses open their doors after months of being closed.

At Philadelphia's oldest bar, they are finally toasting to what feels like a grand reopening.

With more than 150 years of history to preserve, there's no way the family-owned McGillin's Old Ale House was about to lose their place in Philadelphia history.

"The last time we were closed this long was during Prohibition, to kind of put it into perspective," says Christopher Mullins, the owner and manager of McGillin's Old Ale House.

After six months, the taps are flowing again at McGillin's, officially the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia.

They say it felt amazing to serve that first beer.

"It was great. I mean, the beer is what McGillin's is!" said Mullins. "We are McGillin's Old Ale House, so for us, serve beer is like blood flowing through the veins."

Mullins says getting to this point amid the pandemic wasn't easy.

"The irony of the whole shutdown was that we were closed the day before St. Patrick's Day, said Mullins. "It's what we live for all year round."

They've never offered outdoor dining, and couldn't even attempt to until three weeks ago.

"Technically, we are not permitted to have outdoor dining on Drury Street. Our sidewalks are too narrow," said Mullins.

The Midtown Village Merchants Association stepped in, and now, streets like Drury can set up tables Thursday through Sunday.

"Every day it feels like we're opening a new restaurant, which is hard for us because we've been here for 160 years. The concept of opening a restaurant is not something we've ever participated in."

For game day, they bring big televisions outside.

"We're now decorating the street," Mullins said. "We have art installations on the street."

Inside, they're open at 25 percent capacity. While they can't serve customers at the bar, the traditional vibes are still there.

"You have a feel of being at McGillin's, sitting at the bar, even though you truly are not," said Mullins. "I guess you can say it's McGillin's Light."

McGillin's is also famous for bringing countless couples together. They say there's something in the beer.

They also add they're making it extra romantic on Drury Street to keep the connections coming.