- May 1, 2017
For Patrick Ryan and his brother and business partner Paul Ryan, providing a warm and welcoming restaurant for their community is more than just business, it is a proud family legacy. Their father purchased his first establishment, Smokey Joe’s, in 1952. The friendly, old-school tavern that has served patrons of Penn’s campus for nearly 80 years, remains under the leadership of the Ryan family today. Ryan’s Pub of West Chester, as well as its sister bar PJ Ryan’s of Phoenixville, both proudly uphold the family legacy of creating fun and comfortable environments with distinct service. They’re places that feel like home as soon as you enter, which is exactly how Patrick, Paul and their family like it.
**Pictued from left to right: Paul Ryan III, Paul Ryan Jr., Patrick Ryan, Sean Ryan and Thomas Ryan
Heady Times (HT): Your family has a long history of owning great establishments in the Delaware Valley. How and when did it all start?
Paul Ryan (PR): My dad’s father owned a beer distributor and several corner saloons. He opened his first bar in 1916 on 51st and Lancaster streets [in West Philadelphia]. My dad bought Smokey Joe’s in 1952, which we still own to this day. Paul and I opened Ryan’s Pub in 2002 and PJ Ryan’s in 2008 (which is managed by our cousin Tom), and we’re still expanding. We’re about to open a new Ryan’s Pub location in Manayunk.
HT: How have the beer selections changed over time?
PR: The biggest change we’ve made is the addition of a lot more craft beer. However, our staples: Yuengling, Coors Light and Guinness remain big sellers for us. We offer 60 different beers, but those three are always available. Everything else is up for grabs – our beer menu is always changing. You have to have a balance. We’re not one of those bars with the motto, “If you’ve heard of it, we don’t have it.” We carry craft beer of course, and our staff is knowledgeable about those brands, but in order to please everyone, you have to carry well known domestics and imports in addition to the IPAs and other crafts people ask for these days.
HT: Describe the menu at Ryan’s Pub.
PR: We offer a wide variety of food that appeals to a diverse crowd. We’re not a Gastro Pub, but the food is a step above pub food. High quality and high value. On Fridays and Saturdays we offer a Prime Rib special. We have customers who call in advance to reserve their cut!
HT: Do you hold events at any of your bars?
PR: Downtown West Chester hosts First Fridays and Swinging Thursdays, which are both walkable festivals with live music, food and lots of fun, so Ryan’s Pub is always a part of those festivities. PJ Ryan’s has a room downstairs that seats 100 people, where we host Comedy Thursdays. You’re sure to see the mayor of Phoenixville there. He comes to every show (just to watch, not to perform).
HT: What’s the secret to the success of Ryan’s Pub & PJ Ryan’s?
PR: We [the owners] are very accessible. Whether it be myself, my son Sean, Paul, his son Paul Ryan III or Tom, 95% of the time, there is a Ryan on the premises. Another big key to our success is the kitchen and bar staff who have been with us since opening day. We all have the same objective – to run really good, friendly pubs.