When St. Patrick’s Day rolls around this year it will mark almost exactly a year since the pandemic became a reality and everything started to shut down. This was particularly terrible timing for the service industry considering St. Paddy’s is one of the most festive and lucrative days of the year.
“Last year was devastating to the restaurant industry in general, but particularly Irish pubs. We were shut down on our absolute busiest day of the year,” says Brian Francis, manager of Mulligans Irish Pub & Grill in Franklin.
Although it’s a year later, the pandemic is not over – between 1,000 and 5,000 people are still dying daily in the United States from the virus – but the growing availability of vaccines mixed with a nationwide impatience for COVID-19 to pass suggests that many are ready to hit the bars if they haven’t already.
So what does this mean for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations? Will Irish bars – desperate to make up for the financial and psychological losses of 2020 – loosen the rules for one of the drunkest parties of the year?
As most have been since last March, bars will follow protocol – more or less – and have different approaches as to how they celebrate the consuming of the the green beer.
"We’ve gone through all of the proper channels and obtained a permit and now we plan to go ahead with our annual event,” says Francis.
Mulligans will require masks, encourage social distancing and have extra hand washing stations. The bottom line is the Guinness will flow freely and it will be up to patrons to follow the guidelines suggested by the bar.
“We want to make this a fun and safe event for everyone in attendance,” says Francis.
Trinity Three and The Harp – all on Juneau Avenue just west of Water Street – have a similar plan in place. They are moving forward with Irish-themed celebrations in the bars as well as outdoor tents, but have scaled back the amount of entertainment they booked this year.
"We still have some entertainment that fits into operating a safe event during the pandemic," says Kelley Cramer, spokesperson for the bars and restaurants. "We'll continue to follow our approved City of Milwaukee COVID-19 safety plan just like any other day."
County Clare, 1234 N. Astor St., is still working out its plans for the holiday, but manager Greg Steffke says although they will have festivities on March 17, the celebration of Irish culture will be spread out over several days.
“Our main plan is to really focus our energies on the weekend before by having some music and specials to encourage people to come over a period of time rather than the day so we can comply with our COVID-19 safety plan,” says Steffke.
Rick Sackett, General Manager of O’Lydia’s, 338 S. 1st St., say the pub and grill will host an Irish-themed soiree, but it will look nothing like previous Paddy’s parties.
“It will look much different than every other St. Patrick’s Day’s at O'Lydia's in the past,” says Sackett.
To ensure a mellower vibe O’Lydia’s will have limited music and be vigilant about the number of people they allow into the establishment. Sackett says they’ve hired a door person for the day and evening to control capacity and that although the patio will be open, it will only be accessible through the bar and not from the street.
“We will only allow as many people into the building as there are seats. We’ve been diligent in following safety protocols so if you plan on stopping by be prepared to have to wait outside to enter, and know the city of Milwaukee rules about staying seating and wearing a mask when not drinking or eating,” says Sackett. “Hopefully next year will look like traditional St. Patrick’s day parties, but this year, it’s going to be a lot different.”
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.