A Publication of WTVP

The block party to beat all block parties

by Nick Vlahos | Photo by Ron Johnson |
Sean Sullivan, co-owner of Kelleher’s Pub and Eatery at 619 SW Water St. with his father Pat Sullivan, and Paul Maloney, general manager of Kelleher’s, stand near the expanded venue on Water Street for summer concerts
Sean Sullivan, co-owner of Kelleher’s Pub and Eatery at 619 SW Water St. with his father Pat Sullivan, and Paul Maloney, general manager of Kelleher’s, stand near the expanded venue on Water Street for summer concerts

The Sullivans, father Pat and son Sean, are all about livening up Peoria’s Downtown

No one puts on an “epic block party” quite like Kelleher’s Irish Pub & Eatery, which is back at it on Wednesdays and weekends this spring and summer.

But the annual concert season conducted at State and Water streets in Downtown Peoria is to have a wider scope in 2023 — in sponsorship, in headliners and perhaps in geography.

Kelleher’s, the venerable eating and drinking emporium at 619 SW Water St., is teaming with two nearby establishments to present the parties. Next-door neighbor 8 Bit Arcade Bar is one. The other is Bearded Owl Brewing, located around the corner at 112 State St.

“Kelleher’s is at the forefront, and they’re helping us out on the back end,” said Sean Sullivan, who with father Pat Sullivan owns Kelleher’s. “It allows us to have an epic block party.

“They’re going to be advertising for us, we’re going to be advertising for them, so that way we can have a concerted group effort to be getting people down here.”

As usual, Water Street between State and Walnut streets will be closed to accommodate the bands and their fans. Street food is to be sold — burgers and bratwurst from Kelleher’s, perhaps wood-fired pizzas from Bearded Owl.

The festivities will begin June 2, when local indie-rock band Grey Slush is to perform. The jam-oriented group is one of the more adventurous ones in this year’s lineup, according to Paul Maloney, Kelleher’s general manager. He booked almost all the bands this season.

“We’ve been in business 21 years, so obviously in that time you’ve got to learn to evolve, improve, expand,” Maloney said.

‘Getting more people down here … helps Downtown … helps Peoria. More tax dollars coming in. That’s what we want’
— Sean Sullivan

Weekend parties will continue through Aug. 26. Complementing them will be regular Wednesday appearances by the Peoria Municipal Band, which also performs Sundays from early June through mid-August at Glen Oak Park. The band’s Water Street residency is to begin June 7 and end Aug. 9. On Friday, July 7, the Municipal Band is to open a double bill, followed by longtime local rock band Highway J.

Pat Sullivan said he was inspired to bring the bands to the riverfront by the street parties he attended while visiting relatives in Greenville, S.C., and Baltimore.

“All these young professionals come and older ones, too,” the elder Sullivan said. “They all started gathering and all of a sudden, these bands started playing. The block was packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

“I go, ‘That’s how you do it. … I’d like to try that.’”

Initially, concert organizers were concerned about safety in the Kelleher’s neighborhood. The band’s older-skewing fan demographic exacerbated that worry.

“We wanted to show it’s safe down here,” Sean Sullivan said. “How do you do that? Get the Municipal Band down here … We haven’t had any issues at all.”

Meanwhile, local government has been accommodating in barricading Water for the street parties. Several City Council members are regular attendees, said the Sullivans.

“We’ve done it for so long that they want us to have it,” Pat Sullivan said. “They usually like us to up it.”

Upping it is exactly what Maloney and the Sullivans have in mind.

The block party scheduled for June 30 is to feature two groups, rock-and-rollers Twisted Whiskey and ‘80s hair-band Decade of Decadence. As an extra attendance incentive, there will be ticket giveaways for Foo Fighters and Green Day concerts next month in Milwaukee.

All of this may be a harbinger of things to come.

The Sullivans suggested the grassy area they own across Water Street from Kelleher’s could play host to two or three bands on a Saturday. Some of those bands might come from beyond central Illinois, said Sean. Traffic on Water Street can be limited as far northeast as Liberty Street.

“I don’t want to say Tailgate ‘N Tallboys, because we’re not trying to go that big, that extravagant,” said Sean. “But something where we have an opening, a middle and a headliner out there. Something that’s more of an all-day event than just having a Friday-night or Saturday-night band.”

As Maloney and the Sullivans see it, such plans help attract visitors Downtown, as well as potential tenants. Bearded Owl and 8 Bit are housed in structures the Sullivans own. They have three square blocks of buildings in the Warehouse District.

“Getting more people down here not only helps Kelleher’s … it helps everything we have,” Sean Sullivan said. “It’s going to help the Warehouse District as a whole, which would in turn help Downtown, which in turn helps Peoria. More tax dollars coming in. And that’s what we want.”

2023 Block Party Band Schedule

The Peoria Municipal Band performs on Wednesday nights in front of the Le Vieux Carre building on Water Street between June 7 and Aug. 9, with the exception of July 5. 


JUNE 2 – Grey Slush

JUNE 3 – West MacQueen Street Band

JUNE 9 – Tambora

JUNE 10 – Vinyl Tap

JUNE 16 – Hoosier Daddy

JUNE 17 – Dexter O’Neal and Funk Yard

JUNE 23 – The Coco Loco Band

JUNE 24 – Hindsight

JUNE 30 – Twisted Whiskey, Decade of Decadence

JULY 1 – 3 and a Half Men

JULY 7 – Peoria Municipal Band, Highway J


JULY 14 – Jonny Quest Band

JULY 15 – The Coco Loco Band

JULY 21 – Windows Down

JULY 22 – The StyleCatz Rat Pack Tribute Trio and Las Vegas Style Revue

JULY 28 – Hoosier Daddy

JULY 29 – Off the Record

AUG. 4 – TBA

AUG. 5 – Highway J

AUG. 11 – Dexter O’Neal and Funk Yard

AUG. 12 – Kasino

AUG. 18 – West MacQueen Street Band

AUG. 19 – Tambora

AUG. 25 – Hindsight

AUG. 26 – Jonny Quest Band

Nick Vlahos

Nick Vlahos

is a longtime Peoria print journalist and a regular contributor to Peoria Magazine.