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Albertans celebrate 1st ‘normal’ St. Patrick’s Day in years

Click to play video: 'St. Patrick’s Day without health restrictions has some Edmontonians raising a glass' St. Patrick’s Day without health restrictions has some Edmontonians raising a glass
WATCH ABOVE: For the first time in years, Edmontonians are able to mark St. Patrick's Day without public health restrictions. And as Ciara Yaschuk explains, as an added bonus, it's nice enough outside to celebrate the day on a patio. – Mar 17, 2022

For the first time in years, Irish pubs across Alberta are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day without COVID-19 restrictions.

Alberta dropped nearly all of its COVID-19 public health measures on March 1. This means restaurants, bars and pubs are open at full capacity without the need for patrons to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Read more: St. Patrick’s Day parties and celebrations set to return as experts urge caution

For Gary Tomchuk, owner of Duggan’s Boundary Irish Pub in Edmonton, this will be the first normal St. Patrick’s Day the pub is celebrating since 2019. The pub made its own decision to close down the establishment on March 16, 2020 — one day ahead St. Patrick’s Day and just days ahead of the province mandating all indoor dining be shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world.

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“Oh my gosh, when you think about it — when we made the decision to shut down it was March 16 of 2020. It was the day before and, you know, when you have all the food and all the beer and you make that decision to shut down… it was pretty gut wrenching,” Tomchuk said.

“It’s been a very long, stressful time for us. With opening and closing and restrictions, we’ve managed to get through to this point and we are beyond excited to welcome people in because we know they’re chomping at the bit.”

Click to play video: 'The return of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations' The return of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations
The return of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations – Mar 17, 2022

The pub in the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood opened at 10 a.m. Thursday, an hour earlier that usual. The patio is open and entertainers are scheduled to play from 1 p.m. well into the night. Tomchuk anticipates the pub will be packed from open to close.

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“This is, by far and away — it would be our Super Bowl times two for a sports bar — would be one way to put it.”

And what would St. Patrick’s Day be without a pint or two of Guinness? The pub has 16 kegs of the Irish stout ready to pour.

“We’re incredibly excited to welcome people in for the first normal St. Patrick’s Day in a very long time.”

Read more: Albertans celebrate muted St. Patrick’s Day on one-year anniversary of health emergency

Ernie Tsu with the Alberta Hospitality Association said the positive feeling of St. Patrick’s Day means everything to neighbourhood pubs.

“To have everybody from the community be able to meet and be able to be social again and just have that positive feel of moving forward,” Tsu said.

Click to play video: 'Calgarians celebrate 1st normal St. Patrick’s Day in years' Calgarians celebrate 1st normal St. Patrick’s Day in years
Calgarians celebrate 1st normal St. Patrick’s Day in years – Mar 17, 2022

“We’re starting to see people return back to the later hours. And I think, you know, today — St. Patrick’s Day — will be the launch of of everyone getting back into that later, 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. Routine.

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“Our industry is going to take at least 28 months to get out of the last two years, especially with all of the rising costs and costs of goods, but it’s a good starting point to start grinding back to a break-even point.”

Read more: Half of Canada’s dining establishments at risk of shutting down: restaurant association

The Cabin Pub + Party on Jasper Avenue and 116 Street in Edmonton is also celebrating for the first time in three years.

“We were ramping up for 2020 and the pandemic hit and we closed the doors. So we’ve been dreaming about this day for a long time,” said marketing manager Jonny Jazzno.

The location has a rich Irish history that goes back to the days The Druid called the corner home. After that, the Urban Tavern carried on the Irish traditions, which The Cabin is excited to continue.

“This is our Christmas. This is one of the biggest days of the year for us here and it goes back to The Druid days, where we came in and we’d celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the last two years it hurt. We took a hit. We had to do some layoffs, as every other business had,” Jazzno said.

“It’s awesome that it’s back and we can now actually celebrate this.”

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The same sentiment is felt at O’Byrne’s Irish Pub, a family run business on Whyte Avenue.

“It’s really exciting for us. It’s one of the most important days of the year for us and we missed three so this is a magical time for us,” Cathal O’Byrne said.

Read more: Calgarians placing shamrocks in hopes of bringing more than just luck to others

The patio is open and the popular pub is expecting a full day of festivities, with live music, lots of Guinness and of course, green beer.

“St. Patrick’s Day is like our legacy. We’ve been around for 24 years and to miss three years of St. Patrick’s Days… it was pretty tough. We have to give it to our community, though. Our community kept us alive and we’re lucky to be one of the ones that are here today and can celebrate again.”

And of course, the patrons are loving it too.

“Happy, excited, it’s the best day of the year,” said Sherri Ballash, who was dressed for the occasion with festive glasses and headband.

“My grandma’s Irish and it’s her birthday today, but she passed away on my birthday so I took over her birthday to party. Why not, right?”

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