Regan’s celebrates 70 years this Saturday

Cheers!: Joe Regan, 75, will host an an­niversary party at his bar, loc­ated at 4149 Roosevelt Blvd. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

Joe Regan went dir­ectly from walk­ing the hall­ways of Ol­ney High School to tend­ing bar at Regan’s on the Boulevard.

“I gradu­ated on June 19, 1957, and I’ve been here ever since,” he said as he sat on a stool at his bar.

The ven­er­able Regan’s has oc­cu­pied the south­east corner of Whi­taker Av­en­ue and Roosevelt Boulevard since 1944. It’s out­las­ted nearby gi­ants such as Sears, Canada Dry, Sealtest, Mrs. Paul’s and Ex­ide Bat­tery. Charlie’s Pizzer­ia is still there, but not as long as Regan’s.

Mar­tin Regan, an im­mig­rant from Kilmovee, County Mayo, Ire­land, pur­chased the bar at 4149 Roosevelt Blvd. He raised his fam­ily on nearby Rorer Street. His son helped out, start­ing to tap half kegs by age 10.

The eld­er Regan op­er­ated the bar un­til he passed away, a day be­fore his son’s high school gradu­ation.

Mar­ie Regan, Mar­tin’s wife, be­came the own­er, with Joe man­aging the bar. Mar­ie died in 1981.

On Sat­urday, Regan’s wel­comes all its cur­rent, former and fu­ture pat­rons to at­tend a 70th an­niversary party at the bar. The fun starts at noon.

“I ex­pect a hun­dred and forty, a hun­dred and fifty people,” Regan said. “I don’t care how cold it is. I hope it don’t snow.”

Regan’s is per­haps best known for its lighted “Ladies En­trance” sign on the out­side of the bar. In­side, in a back room, there re­mains a but­ton wo­men used to have to push to or­der a Schmidt’s, an Ort­lieb’s or an­oth­er pop­u­lar beer of that time.

Those are rem­nants from an era when some people thought it wasn’t prop­er for a wo­man to be seen drink­ing al­co­hol with men in a pub­lic place. Regan, who lives in May­fair, still re­mem­bers the prices from back then.

“A glass of beer was a nick­el, and a shot was 15 cents,” he said.

The stain­less steel re­fri­ger­at­or re­mains after all these years.

“My fath­er bought that in 1954,” Regan said. “It still works. It keeps the beer ice cold.”

Busi­ness is not as bust­ling as it once was, as the neigh­bor­hood demo­graph­ics have changed, the eco­nomy has tanked and busi­nesses have moved.

“I used to have 20 Canada Dry drivers a day,” Regan said.

Mak­ing things even more dif­fi­cult is that the city wants to raise the an­nu­al prop­erty taxes at the bar from about $1,700 to $5,200. Regan is ap­peal­ing.

“It’s a little corner bar. I don’t have five grand.” he said.

Regan, who turns 75 on Jan. 22, worked 80 hours a week un­til he suffered a heart at­tack in 2011. He’s had quad­ruple-heart by­pass sur­gery and battles two bad knees and aching ro­tat­or cuffs.

“I have a wo­man doc­tor, and she said, ‘Joe, you can’t do all those hours,’ ” he said.

Over the years, Regan sponsored and coached many soft­ball, foot­ball and bas­ket­ball teams. He’s been in­duc­ted in­to the Phil­adelphia Soft­ball Hall of Fame and the Phil­adelphia All-Star Chapter of the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame. On Labor Day week­end 2002, his team won the ASA/NASF Class B Mod­i­fied na­tion­al fast-pitch soft­ball cham­pi­on­ship, the first Pennsylvania team to do so.

“I’m so proud of that,” he said. “We didn’t lose a game. In six games, we scored a hun­dred and thirty runs.” ••

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