Irish eyes are smiling: Edmonton bars optimistic about St. Patrick's Day 2021

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St. Patrick’s Day looked a little more hopeful to some bar staff than this time last year, when COVID-19 restrictions shuttered operations.

After a year of uncertainty, there’s more optimism for some than last year, when kegs of Guinness were left unconsumed and green food colouring unused.

“We see light at the end of the tunnel …. However us and a lot of our industry counterparts understand the severity of the pandemic and the situation we’re still in,” said Bryan Schmidt, the general manager of Mercer Tavern in downtown Edmonton, on Wednesday.

“We’re all in this together to stay open. So responsible serving and adhering to the rules is very important because none of us neither want to, nor necessarily can afford to, shut down again.”

But this year’s celebrations, of course, differed from pre-COVID-19 events, with Plexiglas barriers, masks and no mingling between tables — all in line with the public health requirements laid out by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

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Schmidt said revellers had their temperatures checked at the door and contact information was gathered for each table. The bar brought in extra staff to make sure the rules were followed.

A motorist shows off their St. Patrick’s Day spirit as they ride around Whyte Avenue in a green tutu, Wednesday, March 17, 2021.
A motorist shows off their St. Patrick’s Day spirit as they ride around Whyte Avenue in a green tutu, Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Photo by David Bloom David Bloom /David Bloom/Postmedia

One of the city’s most popular St. Paddy’s Day hangouts remained closed though. In a Facebook post March 12, O’Byrne’s Irish Pub said a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

“In the interest of public health and safety, O’Byrne’s has decided to close its doors for the next 14 days until all our staff have been tested, return with negative results, and have isolated,” the pub said in a later post.

“This is to ensure we are keeping our local community safe and preventing the spread.”

At The Pint in downtown Edmonton the bar took reservations and expected to hit its approved capacity.

“We have hand sanitizer everywhere, we have masks, we have plastic partition separating people. All of our tables and chairs have been okayed by AHS in terms of distancing,” said assistant general manager Rick Weidemann.

“So in terms of safety … I feel like we’re ready to go.”

Weidemann said customers are starting to feel more confident to come back to the bar in person.

“Everyone’s still very cognizant of the issues and what’s going on, but at the same time, if you’ve got the proper regulations and whatnot, I think they’re pretty confident and starting to go back out to the real world,” he said.

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