Spring 2018

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Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Gerard Meagher: Your Friendly Barkeep

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Drawing on lessons learned at Medill, advertising veteran Gerard Meagher makes Manhattan's Old Town Bar distinctive.

Gerard Meagher clearly remembers one lesson from his time in the advertising program at Northwestern: be distinctive. Meagher continues to apply that advice as the marketing guru at the family-owned Old Town Bar in Manhattan. The establishment, which recently celebrated its 125th anniversary, has a 55-foot mahogany bar; large, beveled mirrors; and high-backed wooden booths. But the Old Town’s most noted features are in the men’s room — the grand Hinsdale urinals. Meagher noticed that the urinals were patented in 1910, so he threw them a 100th anniversary celebration that included a tribute from then-mayor Michael Bloomberg and landed the Old Town in the Wall Street Journal. “You try to separate yourself from the pack,” says Meagher ’78 MS. “And how many people are celebrating the 100th anniversary of their urinals? Not many can, and certainly not many do. We always try to distinguish ourselves.” Meagher started working at the bar in the 1970s while he was an undergrad at Fordham and later tended bar one night a week while working at the Ted Bates agency. His father managed and later acquired the bar, building a clientele of writers. Meagher runs the bar with his siblings and says they’ve tried to keep it a place of ideas. “We only have one TV. We keep the music as background,” says Meagher, who once tried to ban cellphones. “It’s a place where you can still talk.”