St. Patrick’s Day ‘back to a bit of normal’ this year, bar managers say

The holiday has been celebrated from a distance during the pandemic, but this year, the festivities are in person

Banner advertising Guinness on St. Patrick's Day
A banner outside Original's Ale House on Bayview Avenue advertising Guinness beer for St. Patrick's Day. (Jamie Casemore / Toronto Observer) 

With COVID-19 restrictions lifted in Toronto, St. Patrick’s Day is once again a time for merrymaking, after two years of significantly scaled-down celebrations.

For bars and pubs, St. Patrick’s Day represents a turning point.

Karl Rukavina, assistant manager at Allen’s on the Danforth, said that while St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, was the busy day, he is expecting to see large crowds the entire weekend.

Like many other businesses, Allen’s was hit hard during the pandemic, with lockdowns which limited or banned indoor dining.

“We can welcome people back after two years when we were not able to celebrate,” Rukavina said. “In 2021, we were open for takeout and people were doing St. Patrick’s Day on Uber Eats, so that was super strange.”

“We think of ourselves as a hub for the Irish community to eat … to drink Guinness and to just have a good time,” he said.

On Friday, Allen’s was seeing a lunch rush, with families eating and enjoying the festivities.

A chalkboard outside McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon and Grill promotes their St. Patrick’s Day offerings. (Jamie Casemore / Toronto Observer)

On St. Patrick’s day, McSorley’s bar on Bayview Avenue was filled with people eating, drinking and celebrating.

Other bars, like P.J. O’Brien Irish Pub and Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub were also packed Thursday, according to an article from the Toronto Star.

‘It’s been a struggle’

For the last couple of St. Patrick’s Days, pubs and restaurants had to improvise and change how they celebrated.

“It’s been a struggle, supply issues and staffing issues, but we have a live band tonight and we’re able to get a lot of the beer we were not able to get before,” Stacey Northrup, manager at Original’s Ale House on Bayview Avenue, said. “I’m starting to see a turnaround with full capacity … every Thursday we have open jam and every Saturday we have a band,” Northrup said.

For those who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this year offers a welcome change of pace.

“I went to a friend’s backyard last year and the year before, I didn’t do anything. I usually do something every year, so I’m excited to get back to a bit of normal,” said Jeff Lerner, who was wearing a large green top hat and on his way to meet a friend.

He said he has celebrated St. Patrick’s Day for the past 20 years.

Return of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is back on this year after being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.

The parade happens March 20 this year and, as always, invites people of all backgrounds to attend, Irish or not.

According to the parade’s website, it is expected to last an hour and a half and will begin at St. George and Bloor streets, ending at Nathan Phillips Square.

Mayor John Tory has encouraged people go out this weekend to their local bars and restaurants, calling March 20 “St. Patrick’s Day 2,” honouring a promise he made in 2020 when people were unable to celebrate as they normally did.

St. Patrick’s Day commemorates Saint Patrick and the spread of Christanity in Ireland, but also Irish culture and heritage. St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in Ireland and is also celebrated in countries that have a significant Irish population.

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Posted: Mar 19 2022 9:30 pm
Filed under: Business COVID-19 News Spotlight On Small Biz