Hollihan’s Pub in downtown White Bear Lake has become an institution over the years, as it’s one of the oldest bars in town. And with its Irish roots, it’s the perfect place to grab a pint on St. Patrick’s Day.
Owner Richard Suchy bought the bar 12 years ago, just one month before St. Patrick’s Day. The previous owner had named the bar Hollihan’s, and given the timing, Suchy decided, “Hey, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up and I don’t have a name I want to change it to—we’ll just keep it,” general manager Samantha Kurschner says. “He stayed with it because he liked the Irish pub feel.”
Kurschner, who’s been with Hollihan’s for four years, says that while it’s known as the Irish pub, “the history of the building is pretty sweet because it’s such an old building.” It was built in 1881 and it was, from the very beginning, a bar. A photo given to Hollihan’s from the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society shows the inside of the bar—called the White Front—had a similar setup to what you see today.
With a few exceptions. “There’s only guys in the picture, there’s no stools, and there’s spit buckets,” Kurschner says. Women didn’t go to bars at the time, she says. The ceiling you see in the bar today is, however, the original ceiling from the 1800s. A drop-down ceiling had been added, but a fire destroyed it years ago, in turn saving the original structure.
Aside from the ceiling, the neon-adorned bar has slowly changed over the years, but it’s been a St. Patrick’s Day must for many White Bear Lake residents for as long as they can remember.
While they don’t offer specials, they will have all your Irish drinking needs taken care of with Irish beer and whiskey. (Just don’t expect them to dye it green.) Since St. Paddy’s falls on a Friday this year, live music is on tap from 7 to 11 p.m. to set the mood for the festivities.
You’ll see shamrocks decorating the bar, which are far more than decorations. It’s been a tradition for the past few years to sell shamrocks—green and gold—for various charities throughout the Twin Cities. “In the past, [money raised has gone toward] children’s diabetes and kids with cancer,” Kurschner says. The cost is $1 for the green and $5 for the gold, and all the money goes toward the cause. Donors get to write their name on the shamrock, or whatever names they’d like. “People started writing celebrity names and it became like a competition,” she says. “And then what I do with those is I cover anywhere I can on the walls.”
That’s the main decoration come St. Paddy’s, but the people coming into the bar are the decorations themselves. “I’ve had a couple people paint their bodies green,” Kurschner says, and “completely paint their beards orange.”
The Irish are known for their beer and whiskey. Here are a few you can find at Hollihan’s:
A golden pilsner-style lager, it’s a lighter beer brewed in Northern Ireland, and is great if the dark beer intimidates you.
Jameson Irish Whiskey
Speaks for itself.
Pronounced “Smiddick’s.” An Irish red ale, it’s refreshingly clean with just hints of malt and coffee.
Whiskey with sweet woodsy notes that leaves the taste of light vanilla on the tongue.
The classic Irish beer with notes of coffee and malt. It’s sweet and creamy, and dark as night.