How to Plan a Bar Crawl

Planning a pub crawl is a great marketing opportunity for your bar. Tying your bar crawl to popular drinking holidays like St. Paddy's Day, when people are seeking bar crawl events, ensures success. While St. Patrick's Day began as a 24-hour break from Lenten dietary restrictions, Americans celebrate it with pub crawls and bar hopping. Host a local bar crawl at your pub this St. Patrick's Day to draw patrons into your establishment on the holiday and build relationships with your local community.

When Is St. Patrick’s Day 2023?

Must be the luck of the Irish, because St. Patrick's Day falls on Friday, March 17th in 2023. More patrons will participate in a Friday night pub crawl than a weeknight bar hopping event, so go all out with your St. Paddy's Day pub crawl this year.

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What Is a Bar Crawl?

shamrock on glasses of beer and horseshoe on wooden table

A bar crawl (also known as a "pub crawl") is a social activity where participants visit multiple bars, usually on foot, and buy one drink at each location. This bar-hopping activity allows guests to experience different bar atmospheres and meet new people along the way.

The point of the pub crawl is to spend a limited amount of time at each bar before moving on to the next stop, often referred to as bar hopping. This allows patrons to visit several bars, while also squeezing in a walking tour between drinks. It's a popular way for tourists to experience the craft beer scene of a new city.

How to Organize a Bar Crawl

Bar crawls are often organized by small groups of friends, but bars and pubs are also known to work together and plan official pub crawls. St. Paddy's Day is the perfect occasion to host your first bar crawl. We explain how to plan a bar crawl to help you organize your event and earn a profit this St. Patrick’s Day.

1. Partner with Other Local Bars

Your job is to make your bar stand out from the crowd, but the best way to ensure plenty of business on St. Patrick's is to partner with the competition. You can’t host a bar crawl without other bars, so give your neighbors a call and see if they’d like to collaborate for a night of St. Paddy's Day drinking. The benefit of partnering up is that patrons will spend time in each of your bars, rather than giving their business to only one bar for the night.

2. Choose a Pub Crawl Theme

st patricks day decorations

When your pub crawl is official, it’s time to choose from a variety of bar crawl themes. A St. Patrick's Day theme is easy to play up with green beer, green decorations, and Irish- or leprechaun-inspired costumes for your staff. Consider playing authentic Irish music or even hiring a band for some live traditional music. Stock up on green tableware, like beverage napkins and plastic cups, to create a cohesive visual aesthetic.

You don't have to limit your bar crawl event to St. Patrick's Day. A Mardi Gras-themed bar crawl is an easy and alluring option. Fat Tuesday is all about indulgence and revelry before Lent begins, so what better way to celebrate than hopping from bar to bar, downing boozy beverages, and sampling tasty treats? Make a large batch of gumbo or jambalaya to stick with the Cajun theme. Hosting an anti-Valentine's Day-themed bar crawl on February 14th is a great way to celebrate singles and provide an alternate activity for those who reject the commercialism of traditional Valentine's Day celebrations. Halloween-themed bar crawls are fun opportunities to make a pumpkin keg and serve cute and creepy Halloween menu items.

3. Advertise Your Bar Crawl

After you’ve chosen a theme, publicize your pub crawl online and with local flyers. Consider registering your St. Patrick's Day bar crawl with an official pub crawl website so that customers can find your event and buy tickets online. Build hype by creating an event and promoting it on your bar's social media pages. Discuss a set price for the evening, which will include discounts on drinks in each participating bar, as well as any fun freebies you wish to give out at the start of the crawl. Depending on what you're offering, charging between $15 and $30 for a bar crawl event is standard.

4. Make a Bar Crawl Map and Schedule

Providing a map with all the participating bars ensures that participants will stay on track and have no problems finding their way. Be sure to mark bus stops and schedules on the map, as well as the phone numbers of local cab services. Customers want to enjoy a carefree night of celebration, and part of that is knowing they have a safe ride home. At the starting line, give crawlers wristbands (after checking their IDs) so that bartenders immediately know who is participating in the event.

5. Organize Bar Crawl Games

At the starting point of your Irish bar crawl, enter all guests in a raffle for a giveaway. Gift cards to the participating bars make a good prize and encourage guests to return for another visit. Coordinate with your partners and make sure there is something exciting at every stop in the crawl. Try hosting St. Patrick’s Day games with prizes like green beads or free beer. Build excitement by offering St. Paddy's themed face painting to keep customers from getting bored at your stop. They’ll enjoy their time in your establishment and wonder what to expect at the next bar on the route.

Here are a few examples of fun pub crawl games you can offer your patrons:

6. Serve Guests Their Favorite Drinks

young friends with beer celebrating st patrick's day in the pub

Beer, cider, and cocktails are essential to a successful St. Patrick's Day bar crawl. In addition to Irish beer standards, we've come up with a list of St. Patrick's Day drinks, including craft beers and creative cocktails, to serve on March 17th.

Classic Irish Beers and Ciders

  • Guinness Draught (4.2%)
  • Smithwick's Premium Irish Ale (4.5%)
  • Murphy's Irish Red (5%)
  • Harp Lager (5%)
  • Magners Irish Cider (4.5%)

Irish-Inspired Craft Beers

  • Flying Dog Brewery: Lucky S.O.B. Irish Red (5.5%)
  • Victory Brewing Company: Donnybrook Stout (3.7%)
  • Harpoon Brewery: Celtic Ale (5.4%)
  • Goose Island Beer Company: Bourbon County Brand Stout (14.7%)
  • Thomas Creek Brewery: River Falls Red Ale (5.65%)

St. Patrick's Day Cocktails

  • Irish Car Bomb (shots of Bailey's and Jameson dropped into a glass of Guinness)
  • Irish Coffee (coffee with Jameson and Irish cream)
  • Irish Flag (creme de menthe, Licor 43, and Irish cream)
  • Grasshopper (creme de menthe and creme de cacao)
  • Irish Julep (bourbon, creme de menthe, half and half, and mint)

7. Offer Drink Specials for Non-Participants

You want to attract as many guests as possible on St. Paddy's Day, so offer drink specials to those who aren't taking part in your bar crawl event. Selling your bar crawl specials a la carte and listing their price alongside the price of a wristband prompts guests to evaluate whether they should join your pub crawl. If they choose not to, you can still gain some business from them by allowing them to purchase drinks from your special bar crawl menu. Consider offering drink packages to non-participants like discounted beer pitchers, a free shot with every pitcher of beer purchased, or a bottomless mimosa bar.

8. Prepare St. Patrick's Day Food

bowl of Irish stew

While green beer and St. Paddy's themed cocktails are the focus of the day, crawlers need to keep food in their systems. Your customers will thank you for keeping their stomachs full as they continue their crawl. Here are a few ideas for appetizers, entrees, and desserts you can serve on your St. Patrick's Day menu.

St. Patrick's Day Appetizers

St. Patrick's Day Entrees

  • Bangers and Mash
  • Shepherd's Pie
  • Corned Beef and Cabbage
  • Irish Stew
  • Fish and Chips

St. Patrick's Day Desserts

Bar Crawl Ideas

Not interested in hosting a traditional pub crawl? Check out our creative bar crawl ideas. Offering something unique will help you draw customers.

  • Patio Partnership - Weather permitting, partner with other local bars that have a comfortable outdoor patio space.
  • Vendor Booths - Join your local bars in park or farmers market locations to set up outdoor booths that customers can visit during the span of your event.
  • After-Hours Scavenger Hunt - In a designated area like a sporting field, hide bottles of your signature beers for guests to find. You can use paid time slots to reduce the capacity and allow for ample cleanup and reset time.
  • Assorted Beverage Kit - Partner with local breweries to put together an assortment of brews and offer your customers a pub crawl in a box. If you plan to ship these, be sure to check your alcohol delivery laws in advance.

St. Paddy or St. Patty?

St. Paddy is the preferred spelling for the holiday name because, in Ireland, Paddy is short for Patrick. If you want to keep your St. Patrick's Day pub crawl as authentic as possible, use the correct Irish spelling on all of your banners and marketing materials.

Although healthy competition among local bars is necessary, try working together this St. Patrick’s Day to create a profitable evening for every pub in the community. With drink discounts, fun games, and delicious Irish fare, your St. Patty's Day pub crawl will bring in new business and boost your sales.

Posted in: Bars & Breweries|Holidays|By Jessica Wieser
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