*Editor’s note: This story was last updated on June 25, 2021
Rich & Bennett’s pub crawls were the center of the Charlotte booze universe for 20 years. Now, in the shadows of the pandemic and personal tragedy, the legendary events return.
This Saturday will be the first Rich & Bennett crawl since the sudden death of co-founder Jeff Bennett — known by friends and loved ones simply as “Bennett” — in December 2020. It’ll also be the first pub crawl after more than a year of canceled events.
Getting back into the swing of things has been rough, co-founder Rich Saner tells me. “I wanna say [it’s] bittersweet, but bitter isn’t even the right word. It doesn’t seem to do enough justice to what ‘this’ is without Bennett.”
Flashback: Longtime best friends Saner and Bennett got their start in the party-throwing business after they went to a pub crawl in Boston back in 2000 and decided to bring one to Charlotte. “We just kind of stumbled into it — pun intended,” Saner says.
- In 2001, they hosted their first St. Patrick’s Day Crawl with a group of about 65 people, all wearing matching green T-shirts.
- Their last St. Patty’s Day Crawl in 2019 drew more than 25,000 people, more than any other known pub crawl in the world.
“At the end of the day, they’re two people that just love to have fun and see people have fun,” says Nikki Wolfe, a close friend of Saner and Bennett.
Why the crawls matter: On the surface, Rich & Bennett events just appear to be droves of people frolicking to various bars in Uptown. But Wolfe tells me the events serve a deeper purpose than that.
- Because the bar crawls primarily take place in Uptown, local bars and restaurants are being visited and supported by thousands of people — support that’s so badly needed now after the pandemic.
- People have met life-long friends and even their significant other at Rich & Bennett pub crawls, Wolfe adds.
“It’s so much more than a bar crawl,” Wolfe says.
Bringing back the crawls has been a painful experience for Saner, though. It crossed his mind that it might not be right to host events ever again. But he tells me, “I know that [Bennett] wouldn’t want it any other way. I think if we folded it up after what we’d accomplished after 20 years and didn’t carry on the legacy of what we’d built, he would probably smack me in the face.”
Wolfe says that over the past 17 years, supporting Rich and Bennett has just become a part of her life, and she doesn’t plan to stop now. When I asked if she would be attending Americrawl this weekend, she didn’t hesitate with her response:
“Oh yeah! I bought my tickets.”