St. Patrick's Day Bar Stroll - Key West, Florida - Bar None Suds Run - Pub Crawl

39th Annual St. Patrick's Day Bar Stroll in Key West Florida
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This page is a collection of stories, anecdotes, recollections and thoughts in general to add to the historical and entertaining aspect of the Bar Stroll. Please email Rick with anything you'd like to contribute to this on-going work in progress. Thanks!

  1. Our first entry below was published in the Solares Hill Newspaper, written by Peter Heyrman back in 1980. Enjoy!
  2. Our second entry below was published in Conched Out in 1981. Scroll down or click here to read it.
  3. We just received another story from a past-participant with photo. Scroll down or just click here to read it.
St. Patty’s Day Suds Run 1980 Key West

2nd Annual Bar StrollOn March 16, Key West had its Second Annual St. Patrick’s Day Suds Run. There were over 300 contestants and hundreds more who came in somewhere along the way. I think I speak for all of those people in thanking the following bars for their help: The Original Raw Bar, Pepe’s Café, the Pier House, Captain Hornblower’s, Sloppy Joe’s, Rick’s Café Americain, Durty Harry’s, The Bull, The Green Parrot, and the Sandcastle. It was a blast.

The Sunday of the Run dawned early, and I dragged myself from bed, then downed several beers for practice. I stumbled from my apartment and got to the race’s starting point, the Raw Bar, at ten. Some of the contestants were already hanging around. In their special running shoes and gym shorts they looked like serious contenders, and I stared down at my beer belly and flip-flops and knew any hope of winning was over. I ambled dejectedly over to Pepe’s, where I chowed down on a couple of pork chops to ease my troubled mind. My friend Wahoo (also known as "Key West’s Finest Mutation”) asked why I was worried about winning.

"I’m just trying to survive it,” he said. He was right, of course.

Back at the Raw Bar a crowd was gathering, and people were getting restless for action. At noon the bar opened and as the beer began to flow the tension eased. Finally at one o’clock, Rick Dostal, the race organizer, started registration. I happened to be standing in the right place at the right time, and the herds of aspiring drunks pushed me right up to the table, where I got a blurred number that looked meaningless.

I wandered around looking for a beer, but I was broke, and the only place that would give me credit was the Sandcastle at the race’s endpoint. My thirst was great, and it was apparent that the race would be slow to start, so I made tracks. When I got to the Sandcastle, Curly McGinn, the owner, was standing out front, and he grabbed me and hustled me inside.

"We need a time keeper,” he said. "You look like one. Are you drunk yet?”

"Stone sober,” I lied.

"Fine. Here’s the sheet and the watch. Go out there and drink up, but when they get here be damn accurate.”

"Where’s the beer?” I said.

A half hour later I was sitting by a couple of kegs and fiddling with a pencil.

"This isn’t how I planned to cover this race,” I said.

"Don’t worry,” Curly answered. "You’ve got a great view of it. Just sit back, ‘cause every runner’s gonna have to come to you.” He was right. Moments later Martin, last year’s winner, came charging at me. He stopped, chugged a beer, I wrote his time, then he puked his guts out. He was unaffected by the process and picked up a beer and began drinking again.

The rest of the day was madness as hundreds of overworked drunks with high blood pressure crowded the Sandcastle lot. Runners slammed into the table upsetting beers and bowls of Irish Stew as they shouted their numbers. Some passed out, some got crazy, and most of them puked. At about six I gave up my job and went in the bar. It was full of hot, sweaty athletes who were dumping as much beer and they could into their pumped-out alcohol streams. If there was any sobriety left in me it went down the tubes right then.

Still thinking like a writer I searched for quotes. I talked with Rick Dostal, Wendy of the Sandcastle, and others who played important parts in the race, but the quotes were worthless because words couldn’t do the job. As Wahoo had said, it was a matter of survival, and we had all survived one of the best times we had ever had. The run got flushed down the toilet in the remnants of thousands of beers, but for those of us who were part of it the memories will survive, at least until next year’s debacle.

By Peter Heyrman

St. Patty’s Day Suds Run 1981

2nd Annual Bar StrollSuds Sunday
Nine bars fine in third St. Paddy’s Day run
Conched Out
Bill Bowen, Sports Editor, Key West Citizen
Monday, March 14, 1981

Ever had one of those days where you misplaced your car?

Sunday presented just such pressing logistics dilemmas for approximately 350 stalwart beer drinkers who chose to forego more traditional pursuits of the Sabbath in order to don apparel hung with decorative leprechauns and chase a dream or two. Or nine.

And several perhaps thought they had discovered the stuff of which dreams are made as their comprehension grew with each stop along a 2.3 mile route that was the Third Annual St. Paddy’s Day Suds Run, a nine-bar footrace punctuated by the periodic consumption of a 12-ounce plastic cup of the stuff dreams are made of.

The milling, beer swilling groups which rampaged in large clusters through the old town street despite a Half Shell Raw Bar start that was so poignantly described as ‘staggered,’ cut a swath of fun and froth as they went spraying large portions of the landscape with a residue of hope, sweat and tears.

Rambunctious disregard for the ultimate resting place of much of the golden brew seemed to take a particularly willful hold this year, prompting large portions to be detoured bubbling down shirt collars and cascading playfully across the heads and shoulders of those nearest its point of origin. Not since the early seventies has draft-dodging been such a predominant pastime.

Most of the cotton-polyester leprechauns, chosen perhaps for qualities of absorption, took on a profound flush early in the day which would only intensify as the race progressed.

And it was a race, contrary to the image projected by the large majority of participants who quickstepped through a human chute at the Raw Bar starting line for a token 30 yards and then lapsed into a laconic lope.

“It was awful,” said one runner, thankful to linger over a beer in a civilized manner at Pepe’s, the first stop on the route. “Everybody was screaming at you to finish the beer and then cheering for you to run. We ran … all the way out of the parking lot.”

Early imbibing had taken place at the Raw Bar. ‘Practice’ beers before the start. While a group of singers called the Baker’s Dozen from Yale University sang hale and hearty Irish songs between surgical passes of tour trains across the mobbed tarmac. As the tourist laden trolleys impaled the throng, picking their way among the frenzied T-shirted loiterers and a black 1952 Chevrolet painted with green clovers and the words ‘Suds Run Pace Car,’ faces behind the instamatics revealed a mixture of amusement and awe.

Rick Dostal, whose brainchild has begun to attract runners from distant locales, got the thing organized right on schedule (40 minutes late) and reminded the masses of the competitive nature of the event when he announced “Let’s get the serious runners up here first…” and 10 or 12 runners ambled forward.

As always, there had been visions of grandeur through the preceding weeks. There were whispered rumors of a terrifying taco maker lurking in old town who could demolish a pint of ‘Wild Turkey’ in seconds. Money reportedly changed hands on the favorites. Last year’s third place finisher, known only as Bucko, made the serious import of his intentions known when he announced dramatically the night before that he planned to wear shoes this year.

Two-time champion Martin Laessig, a local artist who spent the entire pre-race interlude before his victory last year proclaiming “I don’t plan to run…,” spent several days before this year’s version declaring “I don’t plan to run….”

But a pair of twins from Boca Raton, Bruce and Brian Van Allen, had taken the whole banana by the time the suds had settled. Prize money of $100 for first place and $50 for second was presented this morning at the Sandcastle Bar for transportation over the county line.

Most of the afternoon yesterday was spent trying to figure out which Van Allen was which. “They disappeared right after the finish and we didn’t know who was who,” said Dostal of the mystery that was not solved until after midnight Sunday when the twins returned to the fourth dimension.

Bruce Van Allen, it turned out, had shattered Laessig’s time of last year by seven minutes, completing the grueling race in 13.57. Brian took second place in 14.19, just one second ahead of Bucko, who had raced against the clock two heats behind the Van Allens and Laessig.

Bucko could not look with remorse, surely, at several instances along the nine-bar course that might have cost him that extra second. Not the least of which may have been his start, when he swilled the first beer and went tearing out of the chute at the Half Shell, right into the side of a parked pickup truck.

Laessig, who swears he doesn’t plan to run next year, cut five minutes off his best time to finish fourth in 15.22.

Race organizers have no idea who the female winners were, since none emerged after the race to claim their prizes. “We’ve got three trophies down here for the ladies,” said Dostal. “And we don’t know who they belong to. But we have all the times recorded, so all they have to do is come down here and get them.”

Among the non-racers, several personal landmark achievements were undoubtedly broached.

Bill Grady, who flew in from West Virginia specifically for the race, registered twice with the intention of consuming two beers at each of the nine bars. “Last year I finished last,” he bragged, aiming at duplicating that feat.

One local attorney revealed his intention to make the record books by sheer persistence. “I’m shooting at longevity,” he said. “I may never win it, but I plan on being the runner who spent the most time trying.”

I reached a plateau of sorts, although not until the wee hours of the following morning. It was, however, an achievement of which I can take pride.

I found my car.

St. Patrick’s Day Bar Stroll

St. Patrick's Day Bar Stroll Key WestWith a smile I read the stories of Peter Heyrman of the original Suds Run. As a resident of Key West since 1982 I have been involved in this most loved event.  I didn't know what is was about when I saw it the first time by accident from the Raw Bar parking lot and I vowed at that very moment I was going to be a part of the next one!  And I was and for one ever since.

Through the years I have had the BEST of times with this event- even surpassing some of my favorite Fantasy Fest moments. It is truly a local's festival that hopefully will not be ruined by advertisements bringing in the average tourist or Spring Breakers. It is more fun to watch them sit and watch in awe. All of us parading around in our green garb and ornamental designs.

I have a closet full of old T-Shirts with various designs and bars of the past. Some of them have been signed, some cut into a million pieces, some with stains of who knows what- including blood in some cases. All bring back memories. All bring back smiles.

It has gotten to be such a given event that I have long time friends that call to ask when it is, if they can come, and make yearly visits to KW just to be here from all parts of the country. I usually start taking head counts a week or so before the event and end up spending several HUNDREDS getting everyone a shirt and PRAY that I get the money back or don't lose it in the stroll itself. Sometimes friends just want the shirt even if they can't participate since they too have had such a wonderful time in previous ventures.

I am lucky enough to have my Father who is the designated driver take as many people downtown as he can- sometimes several trips. He sometimes makes a pop in around the Bull to see the group finally make its way there which is more than half way - therefore everyone is surely to be a mess by then. He is entertained. He will wait for the calls throughout the night to bring the rest of our drunken asses home. Such a nice Dad!!!

All in all, I have seen it ALL. We have pushed friends in wheelchairs, picked up many from the ground, seen them hang out of car doors, hit trees, ride the Bull, crawl across Duval, and more. Just such fun! I look forward to 33 and many more.

By Jessie Clark

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