What the hell is this place? Doolin's | What the hell is this place? | Chicago Reader

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What the hell is this place? Doolin's

Owner Chris Doolin wants everyone to get one thing straight: her business is not an Irish pub.

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You couldn't be blamed for wandering into Doolin's in search of a pint of Guinness. The two-story River West building screams "pub" with its emerald-green awning, a clover dotting the I of the business's Irish family name. For thirsty lads and lasses looking for a drink, owner Chris Doolin has a stock reply: "I can't sell you a beer, but I could sell you a hat or beads." She can also hook you up with a champagne fountain, giant ribbon-cutting scissors, and even a snow-cone machine.

Doolin's father-in-law opened the "amuseument supply" shop in the 1950s; her husband began working there at age nine, and now their kids ring up customers at the operation, whose items for rent run from helium tanks to bubble machines. "We're not really trying to look like a pub. Most people assume that we're a pub because it's an Irish name," says Doolin, who seems both tickled and exasperated by the occurrences of mistaken identity. It's also not a bingo hall, though Doolin has witnessed a few small-time gamblers meander in, lured by the pull-tabs and raffle drums displayed in the window.

As you might expect, business spikes around Halloween, New Year's Eve, and the Pride Parade, but Saint Patrick's Day is Doolin's busiest time for revelers stumbling into the store with the intention of throwing back shots of Jameson. Because of the periodic confusion, Doolin and her husband are quick to offer directions to the handful of watering holes in the area, including Emmit's, a legit Irish pub within shouting distance.

Don't know what that place is? whatthehell@chicagoreader.com

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