Pandemic curtails St. Patrick's Day festivities for second year

Today’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations at bars and pubs promise to be a more restrained affair than normal.

The Irish Times pub plans to keep things low-key, obeying provincial health regulations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Irish Times general manager Connor MacNeil said music will begin at noon but by rule will be restrained “background” fare so people aren’t compelled to yell.

“Beyond that we’ve decorated inside,” he said. “Just some tacky St. Patrick’s Day stuff hung up on the walls, but other than that we have to play by the same guidelines that have been instructed to us.”

There will be nothing designed to pull people inside.

“We’ve been explicitly told not to promote anything,” McNeil said. “Basically, it’s just business as usual.”

British Columbia has ordered bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol at 8 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, putting a damper in what would typically be a huge night for them.

“[People] can let their guard down. We don’t want that to happen,” said Al Johnson with WorkSafe B.C.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the aim is to prevent an explosion of new COVID-19 cases as has been the case with other special days.

Inspectors will be out in force to ensure compliance, the province said.

At the Irish Times, one difference from other days of the year will be a 9 a.m. opening, as the pub’s liquor licence allows, “because we expect we’ll be busy all day,” MacNeil said.

He said COVID-19 controls are well in hand, but he is concerned that a lineup might develop and need to be spaced.

“In non-COVID times, we’d be lined up around the block to get in.”

This is the second strange St. Patrick’s Day in a row for the hospitality industry — March 17, 2020, was the day that establishments such as the Irish Times had to close due to the pandemic. The doors were shut by 2 p.m., MacNeil said.

With any luck, St. Patrick’s Day 2022 will be back to some form of normal, he said.

Bartholomew’s Pub has also taken it easy in the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day, which will feature a noon opening rather than the customary 3 p.m.

“We’re not doing much as far as letting people know, due to the health order,” said bar manager Brant Porter.

The nod to the occasion will be a selection of Irish-themed food and drink.

Bard & Banker manager Spencer Buck said despite some decorations, today will be “just another day” at his location.

Like MacNeil, he is looking ahead to next year.

It’s a similar story for Darcy’s Pub’s West Shore and downtown sites, where nothing out-of-the-ordinary is planned.

West Shore general manager Courtney Campbell said in an email that she expects guests will be in “a festive spirit.

jbell@timescolonist.com

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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