St. Patrick’s Day celebrations might look different, but Denver bar owner is happy to be in business

"We’ve managed to survive and we’re optimistic," the owner says
The Irish Snug.jpg
Posted at 7:34 AM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 20:25:17-04

DENVER — St. Patrick’s Day is typically the busiest day of the year for The Irish Snug but current COVID-19 restrictions are taking a toll on the festivities.

The true impact can be measured in pints. Before the pandemic, bar owner Frank McLoughlin would order between 120 and 150 kegs of Guinness but this year he only ordered 12.

“I feel lucky that we’re still open and we’re fighting the good fight,” McLoughlin said through his green face mask.

McLoughlin’s Irish pub is still operating at 50% capacity and he doesn’t even feel comfortable having that many people inside. Reservations are recommended, but he knows his staff will likely have to turn away customers in the name of safety.

“It’s not about St. Patrick’s Day for us now. It’s about keeping on going and getting to where we can all gather comfortably,” McLoughlin said.

He admits the scaled back celebration is better than no celebration at all. Last year, restaurants were forced to suspended indoor dining the day before St. Patrick’s Day after a public health order was issued by the state.

“It was devastating. I don’t know how else to say it, but we were in shock and worried that maybe we wouldn’t be able to survive,” McLoughlin said.

The Irish Snug ended up staying open for carry-out orders on St. Patrick’s Day, but after a week or so, McLoughlin realized it wasn’t sustainable.

“I think a lot of people too were just scared to come out in general, so we just weren’t getting a lot of business,” said Whitney O’Neal, who manages the bar.

Gale and Jeff Haley visited the The Irish Snug just days before the March 2020 public health order was handed down and it would be one of their last sit-down meals at a restaurant for months. This year they wanted to come back to celebrate the holiday. The couple is in their 80s and they were recently vaccinated.

“I’m very optimistic. I’m very happy to be here,” Gale Haley said.

Revenue at The Irish Snug is still down by about 70%, but McLoughlin said he believes things are improving. He joked that if it’s safe, he would like to host a halfway-to-St. Patrick’s Day party on Sept. 17 to make up for the toned-down celebrations this March.

“It might be a big day for us — we could have one hell of a party,” McLoughlin laughed.