University City: New Irish-American Pub Finds Home On Walnut Street
While most Irish pubs throughout the country take pride in their vast beer selection, loud disposition and flamboyant pageantry, St. Declan’s Well, on the 3100 block of Walnut Street, focuses their charm in their modesty and authenticity.
Almost everything in the bar from the furniture to their wide range of dishes prepared by a first generation Irish American cook is what you might expect to see in a pub in Ireland. Though it is important to the St. Declan’s family to stay close-knit to their roots they take pride in how far they have come and never claim to be something they’re not.
“I’ll never say we’re an Irish bar,” explains Marty Spellman Sr., the bar’s co-owner. “We’re an Irish-American bar. There’s a difference. But ironically enough we find that we’re more like bars back in Ireland in the way we present ourselves.”
Alongside Spellman is Ireland native, Aidan Trevors, who is a co-owner of St. Declan’s and one of its premier bartenders.
In the past month St. Declan’s Well was chosen by review site Yelp.com to shoot a commercial which is featured on their site.
“They came to us,” said Spellman. “We had no idea how well we were doing and we are always looking to have a larger online presence.”
Spellman has been associated with bars such as Red Bell Brewery and The Ugly Moose and believes there to be a strong sense of community behind running a bar. Though they are still in their first year, the “new kids on the block,” as he puts it, witness the neighborhood support first hand.
“We have people come in from apartments upstairs, thousands of University of Penn maintenance employees underneath us and an ice skating rink across the street,” Spellman said with a laugh. “We are literally surrounded by people who, from what we’ve seen, want nothing but to have a good time and enjoy themselves.”
As with any bar in its first year they are trying to gain a following by any means necessary learning from the old and adapting to new trends.
“We’re experimenting with different things,” said the bar’s manager, Marty Spellman Jr. “We’ve had major success on our nights when we bring professional artists in to teach people how to paint while they have a few drinks.”
Thus far, St. Declan’s Well has taken some of what has made Irish pub culture so special and introduced contemporary Philadelphia themes creating something all their own.
-Text, Images and Video by Mike Talvacchia