Written by Tommy Flaherty
From 1988 to 2015 (with the exception of 1994, when I took a cruise), I worked the door on St. Patrick’s/Evacuation Parade Day at the world-famous Cornerstone Lounge. A lot was learned from working the door in those years and I’d like to share some tips and advice with those who will be visiting the bars on Sunday. If you heed my advice, I think it will help make the day a lot more fun and easier for you.
1. Do not forget your I.D. Have your I.D. in your pocket, where it’s easy to grab.
Have the I.D. in your hand and ready to show to the, always friendly, doorman. Don’t keep the I.D. in your pocketbook or wallet. Have it IN YOUR HAND when you get to the doorman. There’s nothing worse than standing there and watching some helpless dingaling rummage through a pocketbook the size of your kid’s hockey bag, saying, “I know it’s in here…” Or some bozo with a wallet bigger than George Costanza’s, as he takes out every coupon, courtesy card, Jordan Marsh charge plate, and a condom he’s had in there since 1992, in an effort to find his I.D. Yes, that sound you hear is the doorman rolling his eyes at you. You’ll be doing a big favor for the doorman and everyone else waiting in line to get in the joint if you have your I.D. ready to be presented. (We’ll revisit the pocketbook issue in a minute)
2. Cash is king!
Bring cash. As a bartender, I always treated the customers who paid in cash as my “VIPs”. They knew what they wanted and how to pay. No tabs, no “Are you keeping this open,” and no misplacing of the cards. On Parade Day, the place is a madhouse and it’s really too busy to deal with that. The customer holding cash in hand will always be served before the jamoke standing there with a credit card. For you guys looking to meet a woman, cash makes you much more attractive. You never saw a lady’s man like Tony Soprano paying with a credit card and I’ll bet the same went for Derek Sanderson. One more thing regarding cash; get your cash BEFORE you get to the bar. Don’t depend on the bar to have an ATM. The Cornerstone did, but many don’t.
Storytime: One year, at the end of the night, it was discovered that we left the cash box of our ATM unlocked and the door was ajar. Anyone could’ve bent down, reached in, and helped themselves. Fortunately, nobody noticed and none of the cash was absconded with.
3. Kitty Up!
If you’re going to be part of a group, it’s definitely a good idea for everyone to put up a certain amount of money, make a list of drinks the gang will be drinking, and designate one responsible person to hold the cash, place the order, and pay. Usually, the one with the most common sense is the best pick to be the Kitty Master. As we all know, common sense is the least common of all the senses, so think long and hard about whom this duty should be bestowed upon. One thing a bartender loathes is a group of people approaching the bar, ordering three Bud Lights, two Coors Lights, a Cosmo, a White Russian, and a Stoli O & Cranberry, making and serving the drinks, shouting out “$52.00,” and hearing from the individual customers, “Oh, I only have the Cosmo.” “I only have the Bud Light.” and they all pay individually. These people are amateurs, and quite frankly, a pain in the ass! Make it easy on yourself and the bartender by paying for the entire order at once by using the Kitty. You won’t regret it.
4- Travel Light
Over the years, the day after the parade, we always got calls to see if we recovered lost items. Cellphones, jackets, wallets, credit cards, jewelry, hats, etc. One night, while cleaning up, someone called and asked if we happened to find a set of false teeth, and much to their surprise, we did! But, the biggest item that seems to get left behind is the pocketbook. I don’t know how you ladies are leaving them behind as you seem to live in them, but you do. The bigger the pocketbook, the more it seems to be left behind. If you plan accordingly, you’ll only need cash and your I.D. If it doesn’t fit in your pocket, you don’t need to bring it on Sunday. Also, remember, it’s not 1948 anymore and most places have done away with the hat check girl. There are no coat rooms or anywhere to store the valuable items mentioned above. Decide if you’re going to stay outside and watch the parade or stay in the bar and enjoy the day inside and dress appropriately. You don’t want to worry about where to hang your coat or somebody walking off with your awesome, Henry Hill Edition, bonded, Snyder leather (with the glue from last year’s stick-on shamrock still staining the lapel). Only wear something that won’t upset you if it gets lost in the shuffle.
5. Decide What to Eat Ahead of Time!
Many bars won’t be serving food on Sunday, and many restaurants close the kitchen for the day and concentrate on serving booze. You might want to do some research on the bar you plan to set up camp in so you don’t suffer hunger pains.
6. We Got You Covered!
This is a big day for the bars to pay their bills. Most of the bars won’t see their regular customers on Sunday as the place will be loaded with visitors from out of town. Everyone likes to take advantage of people from out of town right? How does the bar do that? With a cover charge. At the Cornerstone, there were only two events that would bring us to charge an entrance fee. One was when we would host Jim Plunkett. We did this because he got paid based on how many people came through the door. He had one of his people stand at the door with a counter and that was how he got paid. The other was on Parade Day. For years we never charged a cover, and I believe we were among the last bars in Southie to do so. Once we did, it was discovered that the cover charge kept much of the trouble associated with the day to a minimum. Troublemakers don’t like to pay for anything. Plan to pay the cover charge, no matter how good-looking you think you might be. If you decide against what looks like a good time in the place because of the cover charge, remember, the next place up the street is charging one too. The cover can be from $20 to $60 dollars, so factor that into your budget. Side note: Many places don’t allow re-entry. If you leave, you might be out for good. Be sure to ask the doorman for a hand stamp or bracelet if they allow reentry.
7- He’s Just a Kid!
I don’t know how every bar handles this, but at The Cornerstone, we did not allow children on the premises on Parade Day. I couldn’t imagine wanting to bring a small child to a crowded bar anyway, but hey, that’s just me. The rule against admitting children was pretty simple; we didn’t want to see one get hurt. As years went on, legal liability became an issue as well. If you’re bringing your kids here on Sunday, my suggestion is to find a good spot to watch the parade. What kid wants to go to a bar, be hungry, watch his mother rummage through her pocketbook, and get yelled at by a bartender for ordering wrong, then lose her false teeth? If you’re planning on spending the day at the bar, see about getting a babysitter and enjoy yourself.
I know it sounds like a lot of rules from a disgruntled, former doorman, but they’re really just twenty-five years’ worth of observations and hints that will make your day and that of the bar staff more enjoyable.
Have fun, be safe, look out for each other, and Erin Go Braugh!
Tommy Flaherty grew up and still lives in South Boston. He worked for years in his family’s bar and nightclub, The Cornerstone, which was the anchor of West Broadway for 37 years. He loves his neighborhood! (Tommy with his father Tommy, Sr.)