- July 12, 2017
For 39 years, Byrne’s Tavern located at the corner of Richmond and Westmoreland Streets in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia has thrived, thanks to the leadership of owner Frank Byrne.Keeping any business’s doors open for 39 years can be a challenge, but Byrne has not only adapted to the evolving beer industry, he’s accepted the challenge, and excelled.
What was once a watering hole for locals, who spent their days working at the bustling shipping port, Byrne’s Tavern is now a family-friendly establishment known for its perfect Guinness pour and famous chicken wings.
Heady Times (HT): Congrats on 39 years in business! That’s quite an accomplishment. How have things changed during that time?
Frank Byrne (FB): Well, I started on June 14th 1978.The previous owners only offered Schmidt’s and Ortlieb’s on tap. Of course that made sense because both breweries were local. I put Coors on soon after taking over, and we began to evolve, trying different styles. We used to have only four beers on tap, but we’ve expanded to eight. We also stock 55 different craft beer selections in bottles and cans. Obviously Schmidt’s and Ortlieb’s are no more, but we have Yuengling, Harp and Guinness. We offer a great selection.
HT: Why did you choose to expand your beer selection?
FB: The customers were asking for more variety. We had to progress, you can’t just sit back. So I paid attention to what the customers were asking for. That’s even more important today because of the tremendous selection of craft and seasonal beers.
HT: How has your customer base evolved over time?
FB: Well, in 1978, my dear friend Huey – who was my only employee when I first started here – would get here by 7:00 AM. Back then, you had thousands of people just getting off their shifts at the grain elevator down the street, or the coal works. There were two lumber companies and eight trucking companies. After they were done with their workday, they’d all come here for a drink. So we’d be busy at 7:00 in the morning. Sadly, those days are gone.
HT: You must have had to increase your staff beyond you and Huey very quickly.
FB: Yes, I did. Huey and I used to work at Cavanaugh’s together. This bar was Strukie’s for 45 years, and when Mr. Struk passed, his two daughters decided to sell it .I took a chance. It was just Huey and I to start, now we have a staff of 28, which includes my sister, who handles all the logistics, paperwork and hiring. I wouldn’t be able to do it without her.
HT: We’ve heard that Byrne’s Tavern is known for their perfect Guinness pour and amazing wings.
FB: Yes, we are. Guinness is very supportive of us. The reps come out to show our staff how to pour the perfect pint. We get compliments on it all the time. You don’t just draw it and throw it in front of somebody. A good Guinness takes time.
That’s what it’s all about. Consistency, in everything we do, is so important. Take our chicken wings for example. It took me six months to come up with the recipe. Once we found one we liked, we stuck with it. We don’t do fifteen different sauces, we do one and we make it right. Now we sell nearly 2,500 pounds of fresh wings a week! No frozen product and we cut them ourselves. When we commit to something, the consistency and the quality is there. You can’t always be perfect, but we strive for it every day.
Byrnestavern.net • 3301 Richmond Street, Philadelphia, PA • 215-423-3444