Biddy Mulligan's celebrates its 21st birthday

A STOUT CREW: The team at Biddy Mulligan’s toast the pub’s 21st birthday, from left: Duncan Otto, Maddy Barker and Mark Flyger.
A STOUT CREW: The team at Biddy Mulligan’s toast the pub’s 21st birthday, from left: Duncan Otto, Maddy Barker and Mark Flyger.

Biddy Mulligan's Irish Pub is old-fashioned. It's not a modern south-end-of-Victoria St pub with old-fashioned decor. It's a bit dark, it's cosy and it's got none of the trappings of a 21st-century bar.

And that's the way owners Duncan Otto and Mark Flyger like it.

"There's not many pubs in town you can come in and kick the walls," says Flyger.

The walls are solid wood, as are the thick, square pillars reaching from floor to ceiling.

There's Guinness paraphernalia around the room. And a Jameson's leprechaun hat and a Magners bottle alongside a 2006 All Blacks jersey and a rack of Waikato bottles.

Biddy's was opened in 1993 and celebrated its 21st birthday on Saturday.

Locals Otto and Flyger took ownership of the business in 2011, two days before St Patrick's Day, the busiest day of the year for any Irish pub.

They bought it because they'd been loving patrons and wanted to revamp the business.

"This was one of the places to go out in town. Then it sort of died," says Otto.

"It's a nice old place, it's got good bones," says Flyger.

Keeping the building would be their biggest coup. Otto and Flyger expect it to be demolished in the near future, because it would cost too much for the landlord to do earthquake strengthening.

But the pair say losing the building won't be the end; Biddy Mulligans will find another home, and celebrate birthdays long into the future.

After all, the business duo have survived other battles. Otto says the recession was a challenge for the business. They had to "do something different".

"You've got to make sure you've got an event every night of the week to encourage people to come out and drink a beer.

"We have an open mic night on Monday nights. When we first started we had three people. Now we're getting 50 to 60 people in every Monday night," he said. "The music is really good. You get some really good stuff and some really different stuff."

Monday is now one of the busiest nights of the week.

Regular acts on other nights include the Celtic Group, the Hamilton Acoustic Club, the Waikato Irish Club and the Hamilton Blues Society, as well as any number of travelling bands.

Otto says the pub's distance from Hood St is an advantage, because it isn't part of the bar-hopping scene.

"I think it's quite a good thing because we're a destination," he says. "When all the problems are starting down the other end of town, we're just about closing our doors."

In three years they have called the police only once.

Biddy's has seven employees, and Flyger says the pride of the pub is Irish duty manager Maddy Barker. Barker says the pride of the pub is the beer.

"We sell more Guinness in here than any other pub in town," she says.

According to Flyger, that is a lot of Guinness. "When we took it over we were doing one keg of Guinness a week. Now we're doing on average five to six. And that's just Guinness. On Paddy's Day we do 20."

Biddy Mulligan's is a stopping point for travelling rugby fans and Irish tourists, but most of the business comes from regular customers.

"It's the people that make the pub for me," says Otto.

There's a board on the wall listing more than 80 regulars who have bought more than 100 pints of Guinness.

First on the list is long-time patron Mike Sanders, who Flyger says has now had more than 2500 pints in the establishment. Otto said one regular patron figured he had spent more than $30,000 in Biddy's over the years.

"We're probably the only Victoria St business that's been going on 21 years," says Flyger.