I am using my extra hour this weekend to come up with ideas for my friend Shay Clarke to use at McNally’s in St. Charles.
Sure, the pub is doing fine without my input. But you never know when you’ll have to spice things up, in this day and age of very short attention spans, to draw in more customers.
Plus, speaking of spice, anyone who has seen cable food shows can tell you, nothing is simple anymore. You can’t be just one thing. Cripes. On The Food Network website there’s a Thanksgiving recipe for brined, herb-crusted turkey with apple cider gravy. And The Cooking Channel has maple bacon caramel popcorn balls.
It’s all about combining things in new or unusual ways.
So Friday, Shay’s wife Traci and I headed out to Rosemont to scope Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s “Built to Amaze.”
Yup – my idea is what industry insiders would call a fusion bar, this one melding Irish and circus. It worked for the French Canadians, right?
Right off the bat, I saw my first thing to steal – I mean incorporate – into the concept: give everybody red clown noses. Call them Tip O’Neill’s.
An Irish Circus bar should sell stuff on a stick or stuck on a board. The circus has folks walking about hawking cotton candy and clown heads with brains filled with rainbow-colored ice. Cabbage would would be perfect to sell this way, as would corned beef, or even salmon. Boxties, not so much.
An elephant carrying a showgirl who is carrying the American flag while somebody sings the Star Spangled Banner. Wait. That’s how I think all sporting events should start. And NBA basketball should be played on unicycles. Those games in January would be way less dull.
Here are some other ideas. Feel free to share them with your own favorite Irish publicans:
Suspend acrobatic women wrapped in ropes of LED lights from the ceiling. This seems the best use of Irish dancers. Ever.
Hire some ferrets. There was a clown bit involving two Italians, a couple rabbits, a snake, a guinea pig and a coat full of ferrets (which also sounds like the start of one of those jokes your dad’s work buddies would tell, the ones who smelled of cigarettes and bourbon). While my buddy Tom might consider these critters ingredients for another gumbo, ferrets – maybe dressed up like lanky leprechauns – would be fun, especially if you could train them to pour beer. Or, as they love to crawl into tight spaces, to clean the beer lines.
Book a dog act. The circus had an old school dog one – with poodles. Does anyone really like poodles? I say, go with pit bulls. Set them up playing poker upstairs on a slow night. It’s cute and intimidating at the same time. And hire an Irish wolfhound to be bouncer Saturday nights or when those guys from Celtic Thunder show up to control all those lusty grandmothers.
Get something that looks like a half a dalek from “Doctor Who” for Shay to move about the bar. The Ringling ringmaster rides something like this, and it might also draw in nerds who watch British sci-fi.
Build a steel vortex – AKA the giant double hamster wheel of death – behind the building. This would be an impressive way for food and drink to make it to and from each floor of McNally’s. And it would mean less stair time for Shay. Otherwise, you could hire guys on stilts. Just don’t let them hold babies for photo ops.
Find the Celtic equivalent of Duo Fusion and Duo Solys. Google them. There should be a two drink minimum for this. This is why dads go to the circus.
Set up a tiger cage. Scratch that. You can’t have tigers. They might eat people, which would be really bad for business. Unless they were the really annoying customers you want gone. And I am not sure tigers would be that selective.
On the other hand, I am big, pale and white, if not furry, so put me on a bar stool on a Sunday morning during Irish breakfast. Serve me the food in small pieces on the end of a sharp stick, but make me do tricks to get it. Tricks like walking, pawing for my meal, growling at the waitress, and maybe rolling around on the floor – which are things I am sure I would do if I was hungry and tired (as its Sunday) and people were pissing me off when all I wanted to do was eat then nap through another dull Bears game.
Have a line of toys and other collectibles. Never mind. The Irish – and a certain university – are very good at this already.
Come up with a catchy phrase customers would sing to themselves on the way home: I had “Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey, it’s where life is a circus, baby,” stuck in my head. Surely an Irish musician can come up with something to rhyme with St. Charles – or with McNally’s.
Every St. Patrick’s day, shoot somebody out of a cannon into the Fox River. This actually might be a great way to get rid of the most obnoxious holiday drunks.
Finally, circus up the Irish Pub Quiz. Here’s a sample question: How many glasses of water does an Asian elephant drink everyday?
The correct answer is as much beer as Houli consumed during the entirety of his recent stay in Ireland – 800 glasses!