Country Strong

At The Nutty Irishman’s Bay Shore, N.Y., location, you generally don’t see a country band, line dancing or guests dressed in cowboy boots; yet, every Wednesday that’s exactly what’s happening. For one night a week, the Irish pub goes country.

After a new country music station, My Country 96.1, started gaining in popularity, Owner Mike McElwee took notice of the growing number of cult country fans in Long Island.

The Nutty Irishman

Because he’s worked on country nights before, McElwee decided to take advantage of this opportunity and give those aimless New York country fans a place to go.

“We took a night that we didn’t have a lot of happening, and turned it into something,” he explains.

With only one country bar in the area, McElwee and his staff modeled what worked there and, with the addition of a few accessories, created their own country western experience, at least temporarily.

Each night begins at 7 p.m. with line-dancing lessons followed by a live band performance at 9 p.m.; a DJ maintains the atmosphere by playing country hits and classics throughout the night. The piece de résistance, however, is the mechanical bull McElwee brings in every couple of weeks.

The Nutty IrishmanMcElwee spent a month working with the My Country 96.1 and a local country western store to start the promotion, which debuted on March 4. The store donates uniforms so staff members can don their best country attire: The women wear daisy dukes and cowboy boots while the men wear flannel shirts and cowboy hats, all in preparation for a night of country fun.

The Nutty Irishman also features a special menu showcasing Southern favorites, such as fried chicken, jalapeno cornbread and pork sliders; Pabst Blue Ribbon and Budweiser tallboys are available for $3. With barrels of peanuts lining the bar and hay bales outside the venue, The Nutty Irishman seamlessly transforms itself into a full-out country bar.

This promotion couldn’t have come at a better time. With the economy, you can’t rely on the same 21- and 22-year-old crowd to come to your bar four nights a week, McElwee explains. Country night welcomes a wider range of customers from college-aged students to older people interested in seeing a new band.

With an $8 cover and a turnout averaging 350 guests, McElwee says he turned a $300 night into a $5,000 money maker. McElwee even is planning to host barbecues on future Wednesday evenings.

“It’s probably 10 to 15% regulars, and the rest is a new crowd, so we’re hoping to see returns on other nights, too.”

McElwee saw an opportunity: By taking advantage of country-music lovers who had nowhere else to go, The Nutty Irishman is reaping the benefits. It seems there’s no shortage of cowboys and cowgirls in Long Island.


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