It's not a college bar, sports bar or hipster bar. Walk into Mulcahy's in Wantagh and you're just as likely to see clusters of 20-something friends as you are tables of middle-aged sports fans eating wings and watching a game.

"The place is about as friendly as you can get, which makes things comfortable," says Joe Haley, 51, of Seaford, who has been coming for 20 years.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment, which has gone from what the owner describes as "an old man shot-and-beer bar" to a Long Island institution.

HUMBLE START

The sleepy Irish pub by the train station had already been around for nearly two decades when John Murray Jr. bought it for $50,000 in 1983.

"I did everything a little guy does. I ran a trip to the Mets game, we took two buses to the last Jets game at Shea Stadium and did plenty of cookouts," Murray, 59, recalls. "One year on St. Patrick's Day we even had a live pig dressed up in Irish garb."

Murray eventually bought out neighboring businesses and doubled his square footage, twice. These days, it's impossible to miss the 9,000-square-foot behemoth on the corner of Wantagh and Railroad avenues.

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Patrick McCormick, 50, of Port Jefferson started coming to Mulcahy's when the legal drinking age was 18. "I've had a lot of fun memories here hanging out with my college and high school friends," McCormick says. "This place was a hole in the wall when we first came here. They had a courtyard in the back and the Satellites served as the house band. Now they bring in big bands."

NATIONAL ACTS

A bigger stage and better lighting and sound systems brought in national acts -- rockers Cheap Trick, Bret Michaels, Weezer, Joan Jett and Ted Nugent; metal artists Sebastian Bach and Dream Theater; and pop acts like Third Eye Blind and Gavin DeGraw. And then there were the touring tribute bands.

"The stage is raised up high, so you feel like you are playing a real rock and roll show. You are not just tucked away in the corner of some bar," says Scott Begin, drummer of Badfish, a Sublime tribute band that has played Mulcahy's twice a year for the past nine years.

For Glynnis Budde, 26, of Amityville, Mulcahy's is functional and affordable.

"It's cool that there are multiple bars inside to get drinks and there's plenty of room to move around," she says. "Plus, I like the beer deals. I'm a grad student who has to save money."

But for her, the main draw is one particular headliner. "My friends and I are big Billy Joel fans so we come almost every time for Big Shot," she says. "We love them."

BIG RESIDENCY

Perhaps Mulcahy's biggest attraction is Michael DelGuidice and Big Shot -- the Billy Joel Experience tribute band. For the past 15 years, Big Shot has made a home field of sorts at Mulcahy's, coming back for gigs even as the band went on national tours and DelGuidice landed a spot in Joel's actual band.

"We get the best crowd response and vibe at Mul's," says DelGuidice, for whom the stage is now named. "People are there for a show. They are excited and cheering when the lights go down."

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And there's a standing invitation for the Piano Man. "Billy mentioned backstage one day, 'I have to come down one night and see you at Mulcahy's,' " DelGuidice says. "That would be great, but it hasn't happened yet. I guess I'm still waiting."

HOME TO REGULARS

Whether it's to see Big Shot, 2U (a U2 tribute) or the Soft Parade (a Doors tribute), Jim Perrone, 52, of Wantagh, has been coming here for the past 22 years.

"Mulcahy's is one of the reasons my wife and I moved here from Queens. This is a home away from home," he says. "Everybody just wants to have a good time here."


MULCAHY'S PUB & CONCERT HALL

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WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-close daily (Sundays open at noon), 3232 Railroad Ave., Wantagh

INFO 516-783-7500, muls.com


UPCOMING SHOWS

Mulcahy's offers a wide variety of live music on stage each week. A sampling of upcoming shows:

April 17: '70s & '80s concert (That 70's Band and Decadia) and dance party, 9 p.m., $10 cover

April 18, May 9, May 30: Michael DelGuidice & Big Shot, 9 p.m. $15 cover

April 24: Live Wire (AC/DC tribute) and Slide It In (Whitesnake tribute), 9 p.m., $12 cover

April 25, May 8, May 29: Zac Brown Tribute Band, 9 p.m., $15 cover


YOUR TURN

CHARLIE JUDSONAGE

Age: 65

Hometown: Smithtown

Occupation: Retired banker

On Mul's: "I like the entertainment, the crowd is cool and the staff is attentive, which all makes for a nice atmosphere. They've been here forever. It's like a landmark."


DANNY COSTELLO

Age: 26

Hometown: Franklin Square

Occupation: Accountant/mortgage broker

On Mul's: "In the summer we go to the outdoor patio. The train station is right there and all my buddies come in from the city to meet me. Plus, I like the beer selection. I'm a big IPA guy."


BERNADETTE WENDELKEN

Age: 51

Hometown: Massapequa

Occupation: Saleswoman

On Mul's: "This was part of my regular stomping grounds growing up. I can't believe how big it has become. Now I come with my daughter."


MICHAELS ROCKS MULCAHY'S

Poison frontman Bret Michaels is something of a Mulcahy's regular. He gigs there every year and has held post-concert gatherings after a Jones Beach show, and he has even guest bartended.

"The vibe of the venue and its staff along with the fans encompasses what the Island is all about," Michaels says. "If you want to experience a great party vibe with great people, you need to go to Mulcahy's."

Michaels has been known to hang out at Mulcahy's with his friends Donald Trump Jr. and Trump's wife, Vanessa. When he was playing Jones Beach Theater with Poison, Michaels would sometimes tell the crowd to meet him at Mul's after the show.

"I would just invite the fans down, go in and throw an after-party," says Michaels. "The Poison fans and I would close the place down every time."