(Photos: Anna Venarchik)

After a devastating year and a bitter winter, things are looking up for the restaurant industry. On March 11, President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which will allow qualifying restaurants to put $28.6 billion in grants toward rent, maintaining outdoor structures, and food and beverage expenses. The aid, the warming weather, and the expansion of indoor dining in New York City are timely for a sector within the sector that is eager to celebrate its biggest day of the year: St. Patrick’s Day.

Irish pubs, taverns, and restaurants were financially crushed last year when the novel coronavirus forced holiday events to abruptly cancel—including The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade: the world’s oldest, longest parade. The day typically attracts 2 million tourists to the city who flock to Irish restaurants for corned beef, whiskey, and Guinness—lots of Guinness: the day can boast a 174 percent increase in nationwide Guinness sales, as one report found.

“[On] Patrick’s Day, did we ever think, ‘How many people do we have? We can’t overcrowd the place!’ That one day, that was really the gravy for the year,” Mena Maguire said. Mena owns Ryan Maguire’s Bar and Restaurant, a red-brick-exposed Irish alehouse tucked along Pearl Street in the Financial District. St. Patrick’s Day is typically the busiest day of the year at Ryan Maguire’s, when revelers celebrate with a bagpiper and neighborhood Irish musicians. And March 17 is a particularly special day for Maguire’s: it’s also the tavern’s birthday, which is observed with a celebratory week of promotions. “We normally have events every night and give away free corned beef and cabbage [or] . . . if it wasn’t Guinness, it would be Jameson,” Mena said.

Though St. Patrick’s Day opportunities are more promising than they were last year, COVID regulations will still inhibit the crowds, dancing, and music typical of celebrations. The parade will only be virtual, and Irish restaurants are adjusting expectations too. 

“Normally, Patrick’s Day is such a very big day for us, but this year, our first priority, of course, is everybody’s safety—that’s the most important thing,” Mena said. At Ryan Maguire’s, shamrocks and glittering green streamers were hung throughout the bar, but the tavern didn’t attempt its week-long party. And Mena acknowledged that though the pandemic is improving—and to her great pride, her entire staff has been vaccinated—the trials aren’t quite over: “We want to be very conscious of the situation that we’re in, so I’d love to say it’s time to celebrate, but not just so fast.”

Other Irish restaurants are likewise trying to navigate how to best celebrate St. Patrick’s Day—if they’re going to celebrate at all. Galway Hooker in the West Village will only run daily happy hour specials, but Dylan Murphy’s on the Upper East Side will have a bagpiper stopping by and a full Irish breakfast available.

And both The Dubliner and T.J. Byrne’s in the Financial District are planning to celebrate. The Dubliner announced that they’ll have green beer and “surprise festivities,” and T.J. Byrne’s is featuring a St. Patrick’s Day menu with bangers and mash, traditional corned beef, and shepherd’s pie. They won’t have the usual live music, but owner Thomas Byrne said with a laugh, “We’ll have all the Irish music on Pandora . . . so that’s an attraction for people that once a year want to listen to Irish music.”