Mac’s Place owner Garret McNally’s Chicago-themed bar and restaurant is gearing up for its ninth St. Patrick’s Day this week and 10th anniversary in May after a year that has been especially trying for bars that rely on high volume. The City Paper caught up with McNally, who reminded us of the bar’s origin story and shared what it’s been like since St. Patrick’s Day 2020, the last day he served customers before the pandemic-prompted shutdown.
“St. Patrick’s Day last year was the last day we were allowed to be open, and it was depressing to say the least,” McNally said. “Everyday is a different surprise. It’s been a challenge, but we’ve persevered.”
Mac’s Place was home to Waterfront Art Gallery when McNally came across the property in 2011.
“I worked at Wet Willies (209 East Bay St.) for eight years and the Brick (213 East Bay St.) for six,” he said. “I heard (the gallery) was closing up, so I set up a meeting with the property owner.”
On May 3, 2011, McNally and his wife, who both grew up in Chicago but met in Charleston, opened Mac’s Place at 215 East Bay St.
“The name Mac’s Place is derived from both of our families. My last name is McNally, and my wife’s maiden name is McAeenan,” said McNally, who met several other Charleston residents from Chicago prior to opening. “It’s kind of funny — customers always ask, ‘Why is this a Chicago bar?’”
With Chicago Blackhawks and Bears logos on the front window, Mac’s Place makes it clear what will be on the big screens, and the menu fits the setting, with Italian beef sandwiches with giardiniera and Chicago-style hot dogs.
McNally said he’ll have special additions on the menu for St. Paddy’s Day, including an “Irish breakfast” and bangers and mash — plus green beer and frozen drinks. But like last year, this St. Patrick’s Day will look different.
“The No. 1 rule in a bar is the more seats the better, but we still haven’t brought back all of our tables and stools,” said McNally, who has added Plexiglass barriers in between booths. “They look like hockey boards, so it goes with the theme of the sports. We’re doing everything we can but still being able to operate.”
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