World’s largest pub crawl makes St. Patty’s unforgettable (at least depending on how much you drink)
Posted on 16 Mar 2012 by Travis Durkee
Find all of your green clothes and prepare your liver because St. Patrick’s Day is this Saturday. When it comes to St. Patty’s Day, Rich and Bennett’s Pub Crawl is the place to be in Charlotte.
Friends and roommates from their college days at Elon, Rich Saner and Jeff Bennett started the pub crawl with a modest 73 crawlers in 2001. In 2011 the crawl had over 8,987 participants and this year’s 12th Annual Pub Crawl is expected to upward of 10,000.
“If we thought it would be anything more than a bunch of our friends we would have never named it Rich and Bennett’s Pub Craw,” Saner joked. “It seems pretty egotistical now that it’s nine or ten thousand people.”
The crawl that started with a group of friends taking a bus from bar to bar in uptown Charlotte quickly led to something much bigger. For six to seven years the crawl saw a steady 32–36 percent growth each year. The bulk of the growth is attributed to word of mouth.
“The people that come have a good time and they tell a friend, then they tell a friend. It’s really been grassroots. We’ve done some advertising in the past but not much,” Bennett explained.
Now that the crawl has garnered attention from the Travel Channel and grown into such a giant event, Rich and Bennett have gone from the two of the biggest participants, to business men.
“When it first started we were cracking the first beer,” Saner said. “Those days are behind us. We’ve got to be somewhat responsible.”
“We make sure everyone is getting checked in and getting a beer in their hand as quick as possible and as soon as that happens we can relax,” Saner said. “Once we leave the checkout point there’s nothing we can physically do. We’re like two seashells with a tsunami coming over us.”
The crawl has around 30–40 volunteers each year to help with the registration process but there is only so much they can do.
“We just let humans be humans,” Bennett said. “We give everyone itineraries and have five or six different routes. Probably half the people stick to that and the other half just wander around seeing what bars they can get into.”
Despite the craziness, the crawlers keep things fun and safe. “It’s surprising how out of control people can get and still follow life rules,” Bennett said. “People are having a blast ad it keeps the mood good.”
With nearly 30 participating locations that welcome the crawlers and offer specials, the bar crawl is an event that the whole city prepares for.
“We try to give at least 2 months notice before our shenanigans come in and take over the bar” Saner said. “It used to be one huge group that moved so it would only be one busy hour per place and then it grew to about 2 hours and now it’s one big crazy day.”
The annual crawl is now sponsored by Bud Light, Skyy Vodka, and Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey. According to Saner and Bennett, over 80 percent of the special edition green Bud Light aluminum bottles that are shipped to Charlotte are intended for the pub crawl.
Crawlers come from Ireland, Japan and Germany. Brides schedule their wedding and bachelorette parties around the crawl. Military servicemen schedule their leave to make sure they can attend. The crawl is even used for high school and college reunions.
“We’ve been lucky it has turned into something really cool for Charlotte,” Saner said.
Tickets for the crawl are $25, or $30 the day of the event. Check-in begins at noon on Saturday, Mar 17. A ticket gets you a shirt, coozie, access to over 20 bars, and a chance to be part of history. Saner and Bennett preach that the experience is different for everyone, but Saner isn’t afraid to claim that the 12th Annual Rich and Bennett’s Pub Crawl will be “the greatest day-drinking experience of your life.”