More Culture:

March 22, 2023

'We were punked': McGillin's patron posed as singer Lewis Capaldi on St. Paddy's Day

The elaborate ruse, which involved another person pretending to be Capaldi's assistant, was later debunked on social media

Lewis Capaldi, or not Lewis Capaldi? That was the question at one popular Philadelphia bar last Friday.

As green beer flowed during St. Patrick's Day celebrations at McGillin's Olde Ale House, staff welcomed a man whom they believed to be famous Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi — best known for hits like "Someone You Loved" and "Before You Go." Once St. Paddy's weekend festivities were over, the staff of Philly's oldest continuously-operating tavern mobilized to share what they thought was exciting news online... only to find out they had been duped.

"It's just the strangest story, right? Because everyone here was convinced it was him," Chris Mullins, Jr., who owns McGillin’s with his parents, said.

The ruse began to unravel following a since-deleted Twitter post from Monday, when McGillin's shared a photo of "Capaldi" with two employees (seen below), letting their followers know that the singer had been "spotted" in the bar. The bar also described some of Capaldi's many musical accolades.

lewis capaldi mcgillin'sCourtesy of/McGillin's Olde Ale House

A photo taken on St. Patrick's Day at McGillin's of two employees posing with a man who claimed to be Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi.

Capaldi's 2018 breakthrough Grammy-nominated hit, "Someone You Loved," is the most-streamed song ever on Billboard's Official U.K. Singles Chart, having accumulated 562 million U.K. streams. The ballad also spent 54 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 1 for 3 weeks, while Capaldi's 2019 hit "Before You Go" spent 52 weeks on the chart and one of his latest 2022 singles, "Forget Me," spent 14 weeks there.

The 26-year-old Glasgow native also has an upcoming Netflix documentary that premieres in April, and his sophomore album will be released in May.

In response to McGillin's post, comments soon came rolling in from Twitter users (and on Instagram, where Q102 Philly reposted the photo) who insisted that the person in the photo was not actually Capaldi.

The bar soon acquiesced, revealing on Tuesday that they had been "punked."

"So yeah, it's kind of all falling apart, layer by layer," Mullins joked. "It's kind of embarrassing. And, you know, we have our fair share of celebrities (visiting McGillin's). But we'll have to do a better job of like, validating them ... 163 years (in business); we're still learning"

What actually happened that fateful St. Paddy's Day to make McGillin's staff believe a famous Scot was celebrating the holiday in the Philadelphia bar? It turns out, an elaborate ruse was likely afoot. 

There was a long line outside the busy bar on Friday, which had a $10 cover for the holiday, and a staff member was outside the door accepting payment when a woman approached claiming to be "Lewis Capaldi's assistant."

"His 'assistant' said it was (Capaldi) and was trying to get them to cut the line," Mullins said. "Because obviously, we had a long line. Everyone was like, no, no ... And they waited in the full line. So it's not like they got any special treatment. The assistant was very convincing herself ... So it was like we got double-punked."

The staff member collecting money, who is knowledgeable in pop culture according to Mullins, verified that the man looked like Capaldi. But the doorman checking IDs wasn't informed that a celebrity could be in line, so unfortunately they didn't have the chance to verify based on his identification.

"The doorman that carded him didn't know that we thought he was ... a celebrity," Mullins said. "So he didn't pay attention to his name. He just verified it. And it was a European passport. So that's why, unfortunately, none of us actually looked at his name, which stinks."  

Once inside, the shenanigans continued for the Capaldi poser.

Gaby Rubery, McGillin's manager, asked if she could take a photo of the man posing with a bartender and server to hang on the bar's "Wall of Fame" which is full of famous guests.

"I asked to take a picture," Rubery said. "And he said, 'Could we just not make a big deal of this tonight? I just want a regular night.' So we were all convinced it was him. He even told me, he said, 'My assistant's here, I will get her to take a picture. We'll post it on her (Instagram) later.' He was playing along with it."

Along with the man's accent, which Rubery described as English or Scottish (the real Capaldi has a thick Scottish accent) and his gaggle of friends who were "definitely Europeans," his outfit was also convincing.

"He had these really cool Irish flag pants that I feel like only, you know, Europeans or someone famous would wear," Rubery said.

Sadly, though, the social media trolls seem to be correct about the faux-Capaldi.

While "Capaldi" was trying to dodge the line at McGillin's, the real Capaldi was actually enjoying his St. Paddy's day across the world at another Irish pub. Capaldi was seen FaceTiming his famous pal and fellow singer Ed Sheeran from Jinty McGuinty's pub in Glasgow.

"(G)lad you enjoyed St partick’s day in jintys," the Glasgow bar wrote on Facebook alongside a photo of the famous pair. 

All in all, it seems to be a hilarious case of pranks and mistaken identity, which the McGillin's staff is taking in stride. They just have one question: Who punked them?

"Again, I just want to know who this person is," Mullins said "Because you know, that takes some chutzpah. I wonder how many free drinks he got that night?"

Much like his supposed doppelgänger, Capaldi is a jokester himself, sharing funny videos with his 6.7 million followers on TikTok that receive comments like "I really think (you) forget (you're) famous." So maybe he will respond to his lookalike's actions online.

While Capaldi wasn't at McGillin's last weekend, there is hope for the near future. Capaldi is currently on an international tour, which just so happens to have a sold-out show at The Met Philadelphia on April 4. 

Mullins and Rubery welcome the real Capaldi to stop by for some brews and songs.

"Can you stop in and sing karaoke? We'd love to have you come in and sing a song or two?" Rubery said.

"Well, now we really know what he looks like," Mullins said. "We hope he takes us up on that offer for a beer."

Follow Franki & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @wordsbyfranki | @thePhillyVoice
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice
Have a news tip? Let us know.