Foley's NY Pub "The Bar That Banned Danny Boy"


Foley's NY Pub & Restaurant (18 W. 33rd St.) sought to stand out from the other Irish pubs in New York City yet had only a modest budget for publicity. Over The Moon created an "ownable" event that solidified Foley's reputation as a premier Irish bar in Manhattan.


Although most people associate traditional Irish music at St. Patrick's Day, relatively few can name a song other than Danny Boy. Still fewer realized that it was ranked among the 25 most depressing songs of all-time, is often played at funerals, and was written by an Englishman. Utilizing this information, Foley's Pub did "the unthinkable" -- it banned the most famous Irish song for the month of March 2008.

Anticipating media interest in Irish topics around St. Patrick’s Day, Over The Moon suggested that Foley’s forbid the singing of Danny Boy in order to showcase other great but overlooked Irish songs. The release was offered to the Associated Press as an exclusive. Once it ran on the AP wire, hundreds of reporters and radio DJs from the U.S., Ireland, UK, Canada, and Australia called requesting interviews with owner Shaun Clancy to ask he instituted the ban. Malachy McCourt, actor and author of a book about Danny Boy, was enlisted to provide historical perspective at Foley’s annual St. Patrick's Day karaoke party at which singers were given a free pint of Guinness if they would sing any other Irish song. (Legendary broadcaster Adrian Flannelly of Irish Radio Network acted as the emcee.) Over The Moon conducted aggressive outreach to general interest and ethnic media in U.S., as well as the media in Ireland. Meanwhile, copycats took advantage of the debate and announced incentives for people to come and sing Danny Boy at their establishments (with coverage usually referring back to Foley’s.) Amazingly, the ban became a topic of editorials in Ireland over whether St. Patrick's Day should be celebrated!

On April 2, Foley's hosted a "Welcome Back Danny" party featuring Ciarán Sheehan of Phantom of the Opera fame, Eily Patterson, widow of famed tenor Frank Patterson, Malachy McCourt, and TV anchor Jodi Applegate. This follow-up event created another round of worldwide coverage and solidified Foley’s reputation as "The Bar That Banned Danny Boy."


Foley's became the most talked about Irish pub in the world. The story was covered by the AP, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, and NPR, as well as ABC (Australia) BBC (UK), RTE (Ireland), CBC (Canada) and over 800 newspapers worldwide. At one point, Foley's was featured on the home pages of AOL, MSN, Comcast, and Yahoo! simultaneously. The story also was the subject of countless radio and TV shows, including a lengthy segment on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report that aired numerous times. In total, the p.r. campaign tallied almost 500 million media impressions

The buzz created a spike in sales, spurred visits by new customers (local people and tourists), and brought the return of lapsed customers. Foley's had its best ever St. Patrick's Day, and sales increased a whopping 25% for the calendar year 2008 -- including record months for March through Sept. The worldwide exposure and word-of-mouth still inspires people to visit "The Bar That Banned Danny Boy." Additionally, the pub has received increased attention from beer companies (Guinness, Bud, Miller, Coors and Corona) looking to establish co-promotions and long-term branding opportunities. Shaun Clancy has incorporated the Danny Boy ban into Foley's overall branding and signage.