May 2014 Hooliganism Column from The Irish American News

Maureen & Bill Clancy at Moe's Tavern on Milwaukee Avenue

Maureen & Bill Clancy at Moe’s Tavern on Milwaukee Avenue



Mike Houlihan

I was hangin’ out on the north side a few weeks ago and had a few pints with the Clancy Brothers. It started out innocently enough at Kevin Clancy’s joint, The Claddagh Ring Pub, but quickly escalated into a helluva hooley before midnight.

A fella known as “Johnny Vegas”, a retired porn star and ex-cop who now lives on the south side, and takes every opportunity to bust my balls, introduced me to Kevin Clancy years ago.

On the night in question I was closing out a three-night launch of my new book, “More Hooliganism” at the Claddagh Ring. A steady stream of stragglers drifted through the back room to make the night a success with plenty of craic. Kevin’s brother, Billy the cop, popped in to say hello and he was in a very entertaining mood as we swapped jokes and tall tales. Then Kevin showed up and the whole joint was rocking with laughter from the banter of this pair of Chicago’s Clancy Brothers.

The Claddagh Ring is a cozy Irish joint on Foster Ave. where many a lie has been told. The Clancys grew up in St. Ita’s parish and you might think all of them have the saloon biz in their blood. Their dad Bill Clancy was born in County Mayo and his kids: Bill, Maureen, Kevin, Brendan, Sheila, and Christopher are legends in the Irish American community.

Their brother, Brendan, owned the BC Tap at Balmoral and Clark for a few years before being “run out of town” by irate goo-goo’s who blamed Brendan for the mischievous deeds of the previous owners of the pub. Brendan’s revenge was to move to Portage, Indiana where he is the Portage Township Trustee and for the last several years he’s owned Clancy’s Public House in Portage.

After a beer fueled evening of story telling at Kevin’s joint, the brothers talked me into heading over to another of the jewels in the Clancy bar empire over on Milwaukee Avenue.  I told them I would meet them there and then got a text from Kevin with directions telling me to avoid Western avenue on the way over, “too many cops”. Swell, just what I need when the north side already feels like the Bering Straits to me with all them crooked streets.

Bill Clancy laughed as he was leaving and said, “I’m takin’ Western!” Discretion being the better part of valor I followed my pal Nancy Moore in her car as I negotiated my way through the maze to Moe’s Tavern, Chicago’s best dive bar.

I parked on the street in front and there was a line of young hipsters out the door of Moe’s. Cheap beer and great music will do that.

Moe’s was packed and we were ushered to the front, handed beers, and told to sit in the judges seats for the weekly band competition as the decibel level shot up the scale and I could feel the hair in my nostrils curling from the intense explosion of music. A cute gal in shades practically sat in my lap as she plucked her bass and smiled at me while her band mate humped his shirt on the floor of the stage howling at the moon.

They sounded a lot like Badfinger!

Bill Clancy introduced me to his sister Maureen, AKA Moe. Oh now I get it.  Maureen told me the story of Moe’s, “It’s a neighborhood bar in Avondale that has great music!”

What kind of music?  “Live music! Every age, every race. It’s like the UN.” Every night is a different genre of music, whether it’s hard rock, blues, hip hop, or just plain ol’ funky. There’s nothing fancy about this joint I thought as I spied her brother Kevin heading into the mens room with a bucket and mop in his hand. But everybody in here is having a blast, including me!

Blues legend Liz Mandeville, a 2013 inductee to the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame, plays at Moe’s every Thursday night and works the crowd into frenzy. There’s definitely no sleeping at the bar in Moe’s.

When they opened the joint a few years ago they kind of played around with the idea of satirizing the bar from the TV Show “The Simpsons” and served “Flaming Moe’s” to the amused patrons until Maureen got a three page letter from 20th Century Fox telling them to “cease and desist”, which is now the name of that flaming drink, “The Cease & Desist”!

If you’re interested in seeing who’s onstage on any given night at Moe’s you can check it out at It’s kind of like the “Mass for Shut-ins”. Go ahead and give it a peek, you’ll see musicians giving it their all on any given night and you’ll want to hop in a cab and shoot over to Milwaukee Avenue to get your groove on.

For more info go to

Have to hand it to the Clancys of Chicago, they know how to party. Can’t wait to see what Sheila and Christopher come up with when they expand the Clancy saloon dynasty. And big thanks for a hooley of a night to brothers Kevin and Billy and especially darling Moe!