It's a Saturday night, and you're not sure what to do. It's all been done before, dinner, movies, that bar down the street, or a club in South Beach. You're looking for something more exciting, easy on the pockets, and a way to interact with other people. You're looking for a pub crawl.
Last Call Pub Crawls (LCPC) organizes some pub crawls to epic proportions. Though we're not in the U.K., and your experience won't be as Earth shattering as what happens to the guys in The World's End, it might still rock your world (or spin it, if you have enough drinks in you.). What a LCPC wristband gets you is entrance to some pretty cool bars - no lines and no cover - happy hour pricing on drinks, and a free shot at each location.
During this past Saturday's Brickell Pub Crawl, we got a chance to sit down with Ricky Carral, co-founder and organizer for the Last Call brand. Earlier this year, the company celebrated its two-year anniversary in the getting-people-cheap-drinks-business.
"In Miami where everything is so trendy, we're very grateful to still be around," says Carral. He remembers how back in the day, he and a business partner would sell themselves with, "This is what we're doing, this is what we're trying to do, would you be interested?" Now, bar managers ask to be a part of their series.
Carral and his business partner both did the whole club scene, so eventually they "were ready for an alternative." Pub crawls have always been there, he says, "we definitely did not come up with the idea," only made them more accessible.
He tells us how the origin of LCPC is "bizarre" because it was born out of another pub-crawl-style event organized by Carral eight years ago. During the Wine & Food Festival in Disney World, Carral would get a group together to go "Drink Around the World" at Epcot. Every year, the group grew and grew, and people wanted to drink around Miami more frequently than once a year. Fast forward a few years down the line, and LCPC was born. Carral and his friends still drink around the world in Orlando, just under the Last Call name.
In a sense, Carral and his team are almost like "promoters" for the bars, "not the traditional throwing up flyers way," he says, "more like giving a bar a chance to put on a show for the customers." The idea is that you participate in one of these crawls, you visit four different bars in one night, and you get the opportunity to experience the atmosphere of the place and maybe, just maybe, you'll go back one day on your own.
Saturday's list of bars included a check in at El Vato, then at 10 p.m. people started to shimmy on over to Blue Martini, one hour later we moved to Baru Urbano, and finally ended the night at Brickell Irish Pub.
Four seems to be the lucky number for bars; Carral started with five bars on the list, but eventually brought it down to four because five would be too much. Four is also divisible by two, which is the number of times LCPC tries to put on an event. "We started out doing an event every other month, [then] it grew to one a month, and then to three a month. We dialed it back down - to keep it manageable and keep the attendance up - to two events a month," says Carral.
A typical crawl happens as follows: you arrive at the first bar, which typically has food and is a more restaurant/lounge type place, and when you check in and get a paper wristband you're given a set of four poker chips. Four chips, four shots - easy enough. About 20 minutes before the first hour is up, LCPC guides start to ready the shots - "that's how you know the hour is up," you get your free shot, and you move on to the next bar and "rinse, repeat" as Carral puts it. From then on, guides "leave in waves" in order to allow customers to finish their drinks at their own pace.
To passersby, things might look a bit chaotic, "but everything has its reason and rhyme as to why we do it, and it's worked so far," says Carral.
Part of the fun in organizing bar crawls, is visiting lots of bars to consider as possible contenders. LCPC aims to include a fair share of mainstream bars with those that might be a little "off the beaten path," says Carral. "Even as owners of the company, we find places that we have never gone to that have been around forever." And because of the bountiful selection of bars in Miami, Carral and his team have no problem switching up the bars when LCPC throws another crawl in the same area - it keeps things different and exciting for new and repeat customers.
"As the night progresses, typically the venues should progress from a quieter, lounge-y place, to a more dance-y atmosphere," says Carral, and that is exactly what happened.
Things started at a calm pace at El Vato, as guests checked in, grabbed a beer, and waited for the party to really start after that first shot. At Blue Martini, it became more apparent those who were wearing that special blue wristband and those who weren't. People start to introduce themselves, and at the third bar, Baru Urbano, you start seeing those familiar faces and smiling to strangers from across the room as if you two share in a private joke. By the time you crawl, I mean walk, a few blocks to Brickell Irish Pub, you're laughing and sharing your night with a handful of folks who you might end up adding on Facebook the next day.
At the beginning of the night, we asked Carral to describe a Last Call Pub Crawl in his own words, He requested that we ask him that again at the end of the night after we had a chance to experience one for ourselves. We came up with our response, and this is what Carral had to say: "It's whatever you need it to be... we organize the event, but the customers contribute a lot to what each crawl is, so we'll let the crawlers determine what it is every time, we'll just provide the venue for it."
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-- Carolina del Busto