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McHale's in Rock Hill prepares for national spotlight ahead of Democratic forum

Crews from MSNBC began setting up Thursday afternoon at McHale’s Irish Pub in downtown Rock Hill for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” which will broadcast live from the restaurant Thursday night ahead of Friday’s Democratic presidential forum at Winthrop University.
Crews from MSNBC began setting up Thursday afternoon at McHale’s Irish Pub in downtown Rock Hill for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” which will broadcast live from the restaurant Thursday night ahead of Friday’s Democratic presidential forum at Winthrop University. tkulmala@heraldonline.com

Lunchtime at McHale’s Irish Pub on Thursday was like any other daily lunch hour – even as crews hauled in boxes and gear from the NBC News trucks parked in front of the restaurant.

The flurry of activity downtown is in preparation for a visit from Rachel Maddow, who will host her MSNBC show live from McHale’s Thursday night ahead of Friday’s Democratic presidential forum hosted at Winthrop University, for which she will also serve as moderator.

“We’ve been inundated with phone calls,” said Chris Routh, general manager of McHale’s. “I had to set up a separate email just for the reservations. It’s good people are interested.”

Seats in the downstairs portion of the restaurant for Thursday night’s live broadcast have already been filled by reservation, Routh said. There are a limited number of seats available in the upstairs portion, which Routh said will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“Every seat will have a fanny in it,” Routh said, “including the bar.”

McHale’s will have “all hands on deck” Thursday night, Routh said, and they don’t plan to let the national spotlight take away from providing good service.

“Yes, there’s a show,” he said, “but we are a restaurant, so the expectations are still there for the food to come out on time and the way it should be.”

The restaurant will close briefly from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and then “The Rachel Maddow Show” will air live at 9 p.m. on MSNBC.

“For us, it’s just a normal day,” Routh said. “It’s just a little rearrangement in the dining room.”

Dawn Carbone, who works downtown, took some pictures of the news trucks on her smartphone to send to her children.

“I think it’s good,” she said of the exposure for Rock Hill surrounding the show and the forum. “It marks us. They think this is kind of the boonies and (we’re) rednecks.

“There’s a lot more going on here.”

Carbone said it’s another chance to put Rock Hill in the national spotlight, noting Winthrop student athlete Morgan Lowers’ recent appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” She said she’d text her children and tell them to tune in for Maddow’s show Thursday.

“We get excited, you know?” she said. “It’s kind of neat.”

Teddy Kulmala: 803-329-4082, @teddy_kulmala

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