St. Patrick's Day weekend is like Christmas at McDill's Irish Pub in Collinsville.
The corner bar is packed with customers all day and night, many wearing its custom green T-shirts. They come to enjoy deejay music, drink specials and prize giveaways.
Co-owner Pat McDill whips up mass quantities of corned beef and cabbage, carrots and potatoes (available for $5 on Friday, Saturday and Monday this year).
"It's definitely a busy weekend," said his wife, Louise, 33, of Alton. "It's fun and exciting, but you're always glad the next day when it's over."
The McDills bought the sided frame building that housed Shari's Place on St. Louis Street nine years ago and gave it an Irish theme. Pat's mother is Japanese, and his father is Irish.
The couple also own Old Towne Tavern in Glen Carbon. They've done extensive renovation on both bars and worked hard to make them safe and friendly.
"If you're female, and you walk in the door of a place and feel uncomfortable, or if you have a bad experience, you're likely to never come back," Louise said.
McDill's bar manager Kirsten Smith and other employees serve 48 kinds of Irish whiskey and 17 draught beers, including five Irish.
"We've ordered more than one bottle (of all the whiskeys)," said Pat, 47. "There's one that's $20 a shot, and we've gone through five or six bottles."
The menu at McDill's is limited to appetizers, hand-pattied burgers, mini tacos and T.J.'s pizza, but people can get food right up until closing time.
Most popular are mac-and-cheese bites with gouda or pepper Jack and jumbo chicken wings with Pat's housemade hot sauce. The wings are 40 cents each on Mondays.
"I like the garlic Parmesan," said Rob Milan, 36, a union construction laborer who lives across the street. "They have a good flavor, and they're cheap. And I don't have to cook 'em. That's the best part."
Rob was sitting at the bar on a Tuesday, sipping a soda and talking to other regulars about news of the day. Classic songs such as "Pretty Woman," "Hang on Sloopy" and "I Walk the Line" played on the jukebox.
Also present was Steve "Suds" Mishanec, 57, a retired ironworker, and Ray Juenger, 60, a retired hospital purchasing agent, both of Collinsville. Ray was McDill's first customer on Feb. 28, 2005. He kept coming back.
"I just like the place," Ray said, sipping on a rum and Coke. "I like the atmosphere. I like the people. I have a good time every time I come here."
About 60 customers can sit at high-top tables in McDill's paneled rooms with eight flat-screen TV sets, a pool table, dart boards and video-gaming machines.
The bar broadcasts Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts and St. Louis Cardinals baseball games. It hosts pool and dart leagues four nights a week.
A deejay plays from 10 p.m. to close Fridays and Saturdays. The designated smoking area is a covered patio with walls and portable heaters.
"You have to be 21 to get in," Pat said. "We have customers from 21 to 81. There might be someone in a suit with a biker sitting next to him."
Pat is an O'Fallon native who formerly worked in computer support for investor clearing firms and moonlighted as a bartender. He met Louise in 2001, when both served at Mac's Time Out in Alton.
Today, the McDills have four children, including 2-year-old twin girls. They enjoy the flexibility of owning their own business and being surrounded by customers who have become friends.
"I like not having to answer to anyone, except the government," Pat said. "I haven't had to set my alarm clock since I quit my job."
At a glance
What: McDill's Irish Pub
Where: 334 St. Louis St. in Collinsville
Hours: 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 2 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Seating: 60 people
Information: Call 618-344-9875 or visit the Facebook page
On the menu
Seasoned potato chips -- Basket of deep-fried chips with avocado ranch, barbecue, ranch, orange honey mustard or wing sauce, $3.29
Cheeseburger -- Hand-pattied burger with American cheese, $4.49
Chicken wings -- Jumbo wings with hot, barbecue or garlic parmesan sauce, $6.49 a pound for bone-in or $6.99 for boneless
T.J.'s pizza -- Bacon double cheese, Lotsa Meat or garlic chicken, $8.50
Nachos -- Tortilla chips smothered in cheese, jalapenos, salsa and sour cream, $2.99