Spirits are high at the in the Union City section of Naugatuck these days.
No, St. Patrick's Day has not come early at the bar known for its Irish celebrations in March. It's because patrons recently raised a toast to the pub's selection as Best Bar in the state by Connecticut Magazine, and tomorrow, they will celebrate Old Corner's 100th anniversary.
Asked what makes the bar successful, owner Eugene "Beany" Ferreira said longevity and customer loyalty, and that is what will be feted tomorrow.
"We have generations of people coming here," he said. "We thank those people for their tremendous loyalty."
The bar received the good news about the Connecticut Magazine selection in September. It was great timing as Ferreira was planning a centennial celebration; it also happened to be the first time the bar won the statewide award. What's interesting about its selection is that the Old Corner doesn't do anything too flashy.
On top of its beautiful decour - including a hand-laid tile floor and tin ceilings - one of the aspects of the Old Corner that makes it special is its simplicity. The bar, which doesn't have a blender, does not push flashy drinks and has only draft beer on tap. The food is pub fare, including corned beef sandwiches, footlong hot dogs, burgers, club sandwiches and the like.
There are no fancy games - there isn't a dart board or a pool table - but occasionally you see patrons playing cards in the bar's old-fashioned wooden booths.
On most weekends, live bands play for the local crowd. The soothing sound of Mark James strumming his guitar and singing classic cover tunes is common on Friday nights. And the bar recently brought back singer Danny Quinn, a popular local musician.
The nights become glamorous once a month when Elvis enters the building - an Elvis impersonator brings crowds from all over the Naugatuck Valley and Greater Waterbury area. Women of all ages dance with "the King" while their boyfriends or husbands try not to look jealous.
While Presley packs the people throughout the year, nothing brings the crowds like the corned beef.
On St. Patrick's Day, the bar sells close to one ton of corned beef in the form of sandwiches and dinner plates. Inside the bar, there is no gimicky green beer - just Guinness stout and other draft beer selections. Still, the bar is standing room only from 11 a.m. until close, and people wait in lines that stretch down North Main Street to get inside. Hundreds more order the corned beef in takeout form, and a few years ago, former state Rep. Kevin DelGobbo, the current commissioner/chair for the state Department of Public Utility Control, married a local couple inside the bar on St. Patty's Day.
Consequently, the bar this year was also named the best place in the region to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by Waterbury Observer newspaper readers.
Ferreira, who bought the bar on July 17, 2009, from longtime former owner John Woermer, said he hasn't changed much because he didn't want to mess with success. "All we really did was put on a coat of paint," he said.
As good as the community has been to the Old Corner, the bar has been equally good to the community.
For several years, the Woermer family allowed charitable events to be held at the bar and gave genorously to those charities. When Ferreira took over, he carried on that tradition.
After the past two major power outages, local politicians and volunteers organized a pasta and meatball dinner in which they gave free meals to residents in need. Ferreira allowed them to use his kitchen and his dining area for two nights while people received hundreds of meals.
This weekend, the bar will celebrate its 100th anniversary. The celebration will be held from noon until 6 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 12 - tomorrow) with drink specials and samples all day.
The community is invited to the pub that Connecticut Magazine says, "Takes you back to an earlier time and place."