In 1983 when John Murray of East Meadow bought an Irish pub in Wantagh for $50,000, he had a vision. The place, which opened in 1965, was to be based on his personal motto, “Good, Clean Fun.” That expression has become a mantra at Mulcahy’s Pub & Concert Hall, where Murray is about to celebrate 40 years of ownership with a complimentary show for the public on Aug. 24.
“I get a good feeling when I come in here,” says Murray, 68, looking around his establishment. “There’s a lot of satisfaction in working with this team. I didn’t do it alone.”
HOW MULCAHY'S GREW
Throughout the years Mulcahy’s continued to evolve. Murray took over storefronts to his left and right, even enclosing his back patio. Today this once-little Irish beer-and-shot pub has grown into a 15,000-square-foot venue with a stage that is 36 feet wide, 18 feet deep and stands 5 feet tall accompanied by four bars, two VIP sections, two giant video walls and 19 flatscreens. There’s even a soundproof retractable wall that can divide the venue into two rooms.
“We could do a private catered party and have a live band on the other side,” says John’s son Tim, the club's director of operations. “Our focus is on longevity by building long-term customers who will come back several times a year for various functions.”
MULCAHY’S 40th ANNIVERSARY
WHEN/WHERE 9 p.m., Aug. 24, Mulcahy’s Pub & Concert Hall, 3232 Railroad Ave., Wantagh
ADMISSION Free but currently at capacity with reservations (check for last minute availability), 21 and over
Mulcahy’s also offers a full food menu ranging from traditional pub fare to favorites such as eggplant rollatini and shepherd’s pie. The man in the kitchen for the past 32 years is head chef Mike Zwart, Mulcahy’s longest running employee.
TAKING BACK SUNDAY, MORE NATIONAL ACTS HAVE PLAYED HERE
Over the decades Mulcahy’s has featured many national acts such as Cheap Trick, Bret Michaels, Weezer, Long Beach resident Joan Jett, Ted Nugent, Sebastian Bach, Long Island progressive metal band Dream Theater, Third Eye Blind and Gavin DeGraw. More recently it has become an annual tour stop of LI’s own Emo band Taking Back Sunday, which has played every December since 2021 and are rumored to return this year.
“I love playing at home. Taking Back Sunday is a different thing on Long Island than everywhere else. It’s that hometown thing,” says TBS drummer Mark O’Connell, who lives in Long Beach. “It’s getting harder and harder to tour. To be able to drive to a show from my house is a dream.”
“They treat us as partners, not guns for hire,” says singer/guitarist Rich Popovic of Shilelagh Law, which has played the venue multiple times a year for the past decade. “The staff will do anything for you. Mulcahy’s goes that extra couple of miles.”
In fact, Popovic recalls a specific detail that was added to the band’s performance of their popular 9/11 anthem, “Christmas in New York” during a past December gig.
“They released some fake snow from the ceiling,” says Popovic. “It was that final special touch that really sealed the deal.”
Indeed, Mulcahy’s prides itself on its hospitality.
“We go out of our way to make people feel safe and welcomed,” says talent buyer/production manager Rick Cappiello. “Everybody has bottles of beer in town but when you come here, it’s an experience. There’s an overall sense of belonging.”
Throughout the year, Mulcahy’s hosts several fundraisers, including the John Theissen Children’s Foundation, which helps sick and underprivileged children.
Theissen, 52, of Wantagh, had a brain tumor at age 17, takes 10 medications a day and has undergone 17 surgeries. He started the foundation to give back and it began with a donation from Mulcahy’s.
“I wrote letters to different local merchants looking for support. The only one to respond was John Murray,” says Theissen. “He gave me $1,000, and I flipped out.”
Murray set Theissen up with some free office space and put on the foundation’s inaugural holiday gala in 2002, hosted by sports radio personality Mike Francesa and featured several players from the Giants and Jets. The event cleared over $100,000.
Francesa, with his former partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, would broadcast live from Mulcahy’s during football games.
“Mulcahy’s was a very familiar spot for us. It was the only bar on Long Island we’d use,” says Francesa, who resides in Manhasset. “They have everything that you need. It’s an ideal place.”
MICHAEL DELGUIDICE: CLUB'S BIGGEST DRAW
Both Theissen and Francesa are in the Mulcahy’s Hall of Fame along with past manager Ken Tobin. Its newest member will be inducted at the Aug. 24 event when singer/songwriter Michael DelGuidice takes the stage.
When he’s not playing in Billy Joel’s band, DelGuidice, formerly of Miller Place, performs at Mulcahy’s once a month (twice during Thanksgiving weekend) and is clearly the venue’s biggest draw. In fact, his history there goes back to the '90s when he jammed in cover bands Kid Gloves and Maniac. Once he launched his Billy Joel tribute band, Big Shot, in 2000, he started packing them in.
“Mul’s is always like a big party. This is not a seated venue where it’s quiet in between songs,” says DelGuidice. “It is more like … LET’S GO! The energy is always up with people singing along and moving around.”
This made DelGuidice the obvious choice to headline the 40th anniversary celebration. However, these days he simply goes by his own name, dropping the Big Shot moniker.
“We pulled the name off the marquee not to mislead fans,” says DelGuidice. “It frees me up to be able to do a lot more material other than the Billy stuff.”
His current set list features classic rock covers from Paul McCartney, Journey, Elton John and Peter Gabriel, plus some originals. Still, 30% will consist of Joel material.
AN LI HOME FOR COUNTRY MUSIC
Mulcahy’s has become a hub for country music on Long Island. Luke Combs, Tyler Hubbard, Eric Paslay, Hunter Hayes, Chase Rice, Mitchell Tenpenny, Lainey Wilson, HARDY, Kip Moore, Walker Hayes, Easton Corbin, Eli Young Band, Russell Dickerson, Jordan Davis, Rodney Atkins and Jimmie Allen have all played on the stage. Additionally, the venue has bonded with Long Island’s country music station, My Country (WJVC)/96.1 FM.
“Mulcahy’s is a must-play venue for country music artists. The impact is such that country music fans now expect a certain amount of country talent to roll through the venue every year,” says Phathead, My Country’s program director and weekday morning DJ. “The energy is what makes Mulcahy’s what it is. When you have a sold-out show and the whole crowd is vibing shoulder-to-shoulder, there is nothing quite like it.”
MULCAHY'S PLAYS CUPID
Over the last 40 years Mulcahy’s has not only entertained Long Islanders but actually brought people together who have built families.
Bobby Karounos, 40, of North Bellmore met his wife, Danielle, in the club's lobby when she was coming to see ZBTB (Zac Brown Tribute Band) in 2015.
“There was a little flirtation. I thought she was cute, so I got her number and took her out,” he recalls. “Before you know it we are married with a kid and another one on the way.”
Meanwhile Cathy Powell, 57, of Wantagh met her husband, Bill, at Mulcahy’s in 1990 when she attended a Ladies Night with her cousin Tami.
“Bill’s friend was hanging with my cousin then he and I started talking,” she says. “I gave him my number and he walked us to the car. The next day he called me, and the rest is history.”
The couple got engaged within nine months then married a year and a half later. Today they have three children and are celebrating 31 years of marriage.
“We still go to Mulcahy’s. It’s an opportunity to relive your youth, and the vibe is upbeat,” says Powell. “They are always doing something and bringing the fun.”
Here's a look at some notable shows coming up at Mulcahy's:
Aug, 26: Dance with DJ Louie Devito
Sept. 9: Deborah Cox brings some R&B pop
Sept. 15: Irish folk rock band Shilelagh Law returns
Sept. 16: Michael DelGuidice's monthly gig
Sept. 29: Hip-hop soul artist Crystal Waters
Oct. 8: Alt rock band Thrice performs “The Artist in the Ambulance”
Oct. 11: Country star Morgan Evans brings his “Life Upside Down Tour”
Oct. 29: Emo band Armor for Sleep
— DAVID J. CRIBLEZ