Paddy’s Pub, located in South Philadelphia, might look like a gentrified-hipster speakeasy on the outside with its decrepit façade, but this is one of the few spots where the book matches the cover.
Love it or hate it (which there is no in between), Paddy’s is an anomaly. There is no way, no how a place that usually features a couple of drunks a day can stay in business. It’s off the beaten path, doesn’t advertise, and many locals are scared to visit it.
Paddy’s is one of the oldest bars in the nation. It is the only pub that is funded by the federal government. It helped America win the revolutionary war, then, in the 1800s, Congress voted for it to be a national landmark. But because it was a place of liquor and not some kind of park or art piece, Congress slipped the paperwork under the rug and kept this knowledge only for themselves and the underground world who are knee deep in the nitty-gritty.
The owners don’t have to worry about paying liquor licenses, rent, upkeep, and security. The bar far exceeds the amount of violations to be shut down, but it never is.
Homer Simpson was 17 when he had his very first beer. I was ten. I walked into a rat-infested place with no jukebox, no TV, a dartboard, a pool table, and cold coffee.
You might ask what a ten-year-old kid was doing in a white trash section of South Philly. I still question my judgments to this day, but I commend myself for doing them.
There wasn’t a bouncer, bartender, or server. There were only a couple of vagrants worshipping the wall in the corner. The small rectangular room smelled like burnt trash, feces, urine, blood, cum, vomit, coffee, liquor, and cigarettes.
I served myself. No one watched and no one cared. A menu was non-existent. I jumped over the long counter and took a cold Yuengling from the fridge. I looked at all of the chotskies: pictures of local homeless getting their swerve on, historic photos of Philadelphia, and discriminating pictures of highly respectable powerful people. Neon signs feature the word “beer.”
I have frequented Paddy’s many times over since my very first beer. Every time, it was just the occasional used up prostitute or hobo and me. I still have no clue where the owners where, but it seemed like they could give a rat’s ass about their pub. It wasn’t like it was going anywhere.
The last time I went to Paddy’s was in 2005 and to my surprise there were a few improvements. Besides the dirty water it already served, Paddy’s also had Victory and Troegs on tap. Snacks like Tastykakes and Herr’s potato chips were plentiful too.
Thinking back on the good times I had at Paddy’s, imagining I was the Philly version of Charles Bukowski, sitting alone at the bar and drinking my sorrows away, I remembered what an interesting place Paddy’s was. When I played hide and seek with the neighborhood kids, bathtub gin and moonshine were always brewing in the basement.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Paddy’s Pub. There are many other Irish pubs in Philly I’d rather frequent. I don’t enjoy a place that promotes pure alcoholism. There is no such thing as last call here. Their motto is drink at your own discretion and if you black out, there will be a beer with your name on it when you wake up.
But with all of the denouncements I give Paddy’s, it is an institution, and there’s nothing you or I can do about it.
ATMOSPHERE: A run down derelict empty, free-for-all bar filled with the bottom feeders of South Philly.
SERVICE: Serve yourself. No management or staff on hand.
SOUND LEVEL: Quiet. Only the sounds of vagabonds talking to their own demons and pros turning tricks.
RECOMMENDED: Bathtub moonshine. It’s more potent than lighter fluid.
DRINKS AND WINE: Nothing fancy here. You already anything more fancy than a beer or their bathtub beverages; you’re out of luck.
PRICES: Everything is gratis. No one cares.
OPEN: All day, ever day.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
Restrooms: Worse than a grungy 1990’s gay-man’s truck stop.