Detroit

This Bar Banned All Irish People on St. Patrick's Day as a Social Experiment

The bouncer at the pop-up told people wearing green that the Irish were “lower-class citizens” who would “steal your jobs."

Jelisa Castrodale

Photo via Flickr user Will Murphy

If there’s anything that ridiculously drunk people love on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s holding a friend’s green feather boa while she throws up on a sidewalk, ordering cocktails with names that should’ve been retired, and social experiments. At one nondescript pub in Detroit, anyone in an “IRISH AS FUCK” t-shirt was subject to the latter, which explains why the bouncer got flipped off by a dude in a glittery bowler hat.

Dan Margulis rented an empty storefront between two bars on Detroit’s Michigan Avenue, named it the “No Irish Bar,” and hung “No Irish Need Apply” signs in the windows, right beside a few “No Shamrocks” symbols. He told the Detroit Free Press that the idea was to remind people who pretended to be Irish for a day about what life was really like for Irish immigrants in the 19th century.

“On a day when everyone is proclaiming solidarity with an immigrant group [...] we wanted them to feel what it was like to be treated like an Irish immigrant [...] years ago in this country,” Margulis told the Freep. “Hopefully that would get them to think about the way we treat current immigrant groups.”

It also made people consider punching his bouncer, Bill Ryan, in the face. Ryan was given the task of sitting outside the pub, telling anyone wearing green that the Irish were “lower-class citizens,” that they would “steal your jobs,” and that “immigrants are destroying this country.” (Ryan is now probably being considered for a role in the White House).

Margulis said that if people got too mad about the Irish being slandered, then they were given a brochure explaining what the pub was trying to accomplish. “Our goal wasn't to make people mad,” he said. “It was to make people think."

Although the premise of the No Irish Pub might’ve been harder to swallow than that sixth Baby Guinness shot, it was historically accurate. In the mid-1800s, thousands of Irish citizens fled the barren fields and British apathy that could both starve them to death if they stayed in their own country. They were largely welcomed to the United States with anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment that stereotyped them as lazy and stupid. (One of the predominant political parties at the time, colloquially called the No-Nothings, rallied under the motto “Americans Must Rule America!,” pushed the Bible into public schools, deported the Irish for being a drain on public resources, and generally made things difficult for immigrants. Yes, we were doomed to repeat all that).

That feeling of disgraceful déjà vu is what prompted Margulis to set up the No Irish Pub in the first place. “The general sentiment (is) that we're becoming more and more anti-immigrant," he said. "As we got closer to a day that celebrates immigrants, I thought if those two things collided, I thought maybe it’s a way to get people to think about how we act today.”

A lot of people probably woke up on Sunday wearing still-blinking shamrock headbands, wondering whether it was a pro or a con that they couldn’t remember anything from the day before. But hopefully, the drinkers who weren’t allowed in the No Irish Pub got a history lesson that they won’t forget.