One of Us: Fergus Carey

The owner of Fergie’s Pub and beloved bon vivant on his unbreakable habit, singles nights at Whole Foods, and why you should never make him a martini.

Illustration by Andy Friedman.

Illustration by Andy Friedman.

My name is … Fergus Carey, but I play the role of “Fergie” in the City of Philadelphia. Fergus was a wise and sexy king.

I live in … Bella Vista. Everything’s on my doorstep.

I left Ireland … in 1987 and moved to Houston. I only lasted a few weeks there. Hated it. And then I came to Philly.

Back then, the city was … a lot rougher and grubbier than it is now. My first summer here, I was working at Jon’s at 3rd and South and living behind UArts, and there was a trash strike. There were piles of trash everywhere, and rats running across the road.

I bought my first bar here in … 1994. Fergie’s. Before that, I had bartended at McGlinchey’s, Magnolia Cafe and Society Hill Hotel.

The best part of my job is … being surrounded by great people all the time. The worst part is being surrounded by people all the time. I am never able to fully turn it off.

I met my wife … on a blind date in 2001. The Whole Foods had just opened across from my house, and they used to have singles night. Hilarious. I’d run into people there and say, Is tonight singles night? One day, I ran into an old friend and asked her, and she said, Why? Are you single? Looking? She set me up with her roommate, who is now my wife.

The Irish reputation for drinking is … bullshit, and if you were next to me, I’d get off of this bar stool and beat you for asking. But I guess we do drink, and I’ve been able to make a life out of it.

One habit I cannot break is … coffee. I drink a lot of it. French press. At home, it’s Rival Brothers or Starbucks, and then most places I go do the La Colombe. Ultimo on Catharine Street is the best I’ve had.

The farthest I have been from Philadelphia was … New Zealand in 2006. My wife, my son and I went to Australia for a wedding, and we went to New Zealand and drove around in a camper van. And then I went to Ethiopia to meet my daughter. We adopted her in 2009.

If the TV is on in my house … we’re probably binge-watching Love/Hate, a mad-violent Irish crime show. It’s like the Irish version of The Wire.

To stay in shape … I do Thau Yoga at least four times a week, and I’m on what I call the Mars bar diet. I compare having a bottle of Sierra Nevada to eating a Mars bar. If you want to be thin, you can’t have 10 Mars bars a night.

My favorite material possession is … my 2001 solar yellow Jeep Wrangler four-liter Sport. I only put 3,000 miles a year on it, but I really enjoy it, and during January’s blizzard, I was able to pick up and drop off my staff.

If you’re pouring me a drink, make it … an American craft-brewed IPA. Whatever you do, don’t pour me a cocktail. I don’t drink them. And I don’t drink light beer.

If you come to my house for dinner … my wife will make chicken stew in the slow cooker. Or we’ll order out from Nomad or Percy Street or Little Italy Pizza.

One thing I’d like to change about Philadelphia is … to make it easier to do business. It could be so much easier, and with the amount of taxes we pay, it should be.

I’ll open my next bar … on Venus. I guess I would open another one here, but it would have to be the right thing.

If I weren’t doing this, I would be … driving a taxi in Dublin. And a fat bastard.

Published as “One of Us” in the March 2016 issue of Philadelphia magazine.