Customers will be lining up first thing at 6:30 in the morning, continuing to queue in the midafternoon and standing by at night to get their moment at Malarky’s Irish Pub on Friday — St. Patrick’s Day.
They’ll eat free corned beef and hash sandwiches amid a sea of revelers adorned in green. Bill Hamilton, the founder of the Newport Beach bar and restaurant who is now in his 90s, will revisit his old stomping grounds. Bagpipers will play Irish tunes.
Three generations of patrons, from grandparents to grandchildren, will walk in together and order pints of Guinness.
As in past years, Malarky’s will be selling St. Patrick’s Day T-shirts and pins. Many regulars have collected them over the years and are known to walk in wearing old ones.
But this time, the holiday is more special for the Balboa Peninsula institution — Malarky’s is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
For the past seven years, Malarky’s has been co-owned by Mario Marovic and Brent Ranek. They acquired the business in March 2010, after St. Patrick’s Day. Hamilton wanted to enjoy one last hoorah before handing over the keys, Ranek said.
Ranek, a retired Newport Beach lifeguard who has worked at Malarky’s since the late 1980s, served Marovic his first legal drink at age 21.
“That’s how we met,” Marovic said.
Marovic and Ranek compare Malarky’s to the bar in the old TV series “Cheers.”
“There’s no strangers here,” Marovic said. “Only friends you haven’t met yet.”
The place maintains the fun culture of the Balboa Peninsula, they say. Things don’t change much at Malarky’s.
“Most of the people around here, they’re not up for change,” Ranek said.
The “wall of shame” and, across the room, the “wall of fame” are still there. Both recognize loyal customers who are known to assemble in their regular seats on their regular days.
The bar setup has never been altered. Malarky’s bar is rectangular and, rather than set against a wall, is in the middle of the room, enabling patrons to take “laps” around it and easily see the action from all angles.
But as some regulars noted in interviews this week, Ranek and Marovic’s ownership did bring about some welcome changes: renovated bathrooms, more televisions, better sound equipment, a more sophisticated food menu. Malarky’s hosts more families now than it traditionally has, particularly on Christmas Day, when the bar is one of the few places open.
On a recent afternoon, Leon Ettensperger, who lives near Malarky’s, was enjoying a drink. He wore a Malarky’s T-shirt from 2013.
He said longtime customers like himself love what the place has become.
“It’s like night and day,” he said, complimenting the food and Marovic, who he said has been generous, throwing parties for regulars, hosting their events and giving out free grub.
“Mario goes out of his way,” Ettensperger said.
In coming weeks, Marovic said, he’ll take his recognition of Malarky’s history and fans a few steps further.
“I’m going to start a Facebook page dedicated to people who met here and got married,” he said.
Offline, photos of the couples will get coveted spots in the pub.