The Erin Express Turns Philly Into a Disgusting Frat Party

Yearly drink-’til-you-pass-out events suck the fun out of St. Patrick’s Day.

When did St. Patrick’s Day turn into a celebration of debauchery? When I was growing up in Northeast Philly, St. Patrick’s Day usually meant someone’s mom would make Irish potatoes and we’d be allowed to add green accessories to our Catholic school uniforms. Now that I am an adult, St. Patrick’s Day means hopping over puddles of puke on Spring Garden Street, dodging stumbling girls on too-high heels dressed in neon green spandex short shorts, and defending myself against drunken frat guys (or former frat guys) in kelly green polo shirts and flip flops who think that calling each other “bitch” will somehow entice women to make out with them.

For the first three weekends in March, the Erin Express runs pub crawls through Center City and the Northeast. (See also: The Shamrock Shuttle.) And for the fifth year in a row, Philly was home to the world’s only Running of the Micks which includes a pub crawl followed by a dash up the steps of the Art Museum. This year’s Running of Micks included stops at the very-Irish Raw Sushi and Sake Bar and Club Risque, Philadelphia’s premier gentlemen’s club.

These drink-’til-you-pass-out events facilitate bad behavior by creating a environment where the only goal is intoxication. This isn’t about teetotaling—anyone who has met me can attest to my own drinking habits—but when hundreds of people are thrown together with the sole purpose of imbibing all day long, bad things are bound to—and do—happen.

Observing Erin Expresses of years past, I’ve seen girls vomiting into sewer grates at 15th and Spring Garden at 1 p.m. I’ve also seen drunken men peeing on the street in broad daylight and verbally and physically provoking female passersby in Center City. (Never before has the phrase “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” seemed so threatening.) I swung by the Art Museum on Saturday afternoon to check out the Running of the Micks. Six buses pulled up and from each vehicle, a handful of drunks in varying stages of green dress (or undress, in the case of most college-aged girls) emerged. (Including this guy decked out in drag.) Some of the inebriated dashed up the steps, tripping and shrieking the until they reached the top. Most stayed on the buses and shouted obscenities at gawking tourists. (“Fuck Rocky, biiiiiiiitches!” one group of gentlemen repeatedly yelled to a line of people waiting to take photos with the famous statue.)

These actions are disgusting but Philly’s not alone. This year, Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer canceled the town’s beloved parade after last year’s event led to 34 arrested, 136 people being transported by ambulance and two reported incidents of sexual assault. Deeper in Pennsylvania, Penn State’s yearly State Patty’s Day caused so much destruction to one on-campus apartment complex that building managers have outlawed all parties on the premises for the rest of the semester.

What is the solution to this ongoing problem? I’m not sure. Barring catastrophic crime, I don’t foresee these profitable, well-attended events being canceled or downsized, as in Hoboken or Happy Valley. And surely the events’ organizers cannot be held responsible for the legal idiocy of their patrons. (While puking in the street is gross and ill-advised, it’s not illegal.) All I—and others offended by these events—can do is seek refuge in the least Irish part of Philadelphia—Chinatown.

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  • John

    Seriously, the way we celebrate St Patrick’s Day is one of the lowest points for our species. It’s up there with the Inquisition and that show “Whitney.”

  • Marianne

    As a member of several Irish organizations and the host of a long-running Irish radio show in Philadelphia, we have been addressing this issue, along with the ongoing situation of obscene, discriminatory & stereotypical merchandise being peddled by such outfits as Urban Outfitters and Spencer Gifts. The Irish Anti-Defamation Federation is one group that is attempting to do education about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate as far as celebrating our Irish Heritage. My guess is that the Irish heritage of the vast majority of the pub crawlers is next to nothing. The bars who cater to the pub crawls are in it for a quick buck, nothing else. There are some genuinely Irish pubs where you can enjoy a nice pint of Guinness or Smithwicks, listen to some real Irish music and have a chat with your friends, without having to tolerate the noise and mess of a pub crawl. As far as the “eejits” who do the pub crawls, we can only hope that they will someday grow up and be ashamed of their behavior. Instead of going to Chinatown, check out the Plough & the Stars or the Commodore Barry Club (The Irish Center) for a great alternative!

  • College Student

    This is the article that made me sign up for Erin Express. Thank you.

  • Youth Murphy

    Hoping it lives up to this article. Got me all excited in me kilt now

  • notirishandnotcelebrating

    I’m sorry did someone just suggest The Plough as an alternative to the debauchery of Erin Express??? Since when is The Plough not crawling with all of the people mentioned above.

  • Jon Kayne

    Chinks ain’t Irish

    • Jon Kayne

      That’s offensive and not me…..

    • Jon kayne

      That wasn’t me……..