William O’Sullivan, owner of O’Briens Pub, spent last March 17 freezing 100 pounds of corned beef and mournfully informing loyal customers that Saint Patrick’s Day was canceled. Fast forward a year and the City’s festivities are back on, albeit in a very different format.
On the heels of indoor dining reopening, Irish pubs in Santa Monica are welcoming lads and lassies onsite for socially distanced celebrations. Green beer, corned beef and cabbage, shepherds pie and other Irish classics will be doled out in St Patty’s Day specials at Jameson’s, Sonny McLean’s, and O’Brien’s Irish pubs.
“It’s almost fitting that a year after closing we’re able to have people inside, so I’m pretty excited to have people come down and have a good time,” said Jami Freyer, general manager at Jameson’s Pub. “With all the vaccines going out it feels like we are really turning a corner on the pandemic.”
All three local pubs are serving Irish breakfasts and lunches and are encouraging residents to enjoy a meal and drink on their spacious outdoor patios. They are also open for indoor seating at 25 percent capacity.
Although there is much excitement swirling around the establishments there is also an air of trepidation as the pubs are responsible for making sure people celebrate in line with County Covid-19 protocols.
“I’ve talked to all the Irish pub owners and we’re all very apprehensive,” said O’Sullivan. “We might get 1000 people showing up for St. Patrick’s day and we can only accommodate 78, so that’s 932 people we are not pleasing.”
While each establishment maintains social distancing, mandatory PPE, temperature checks, and contact tracing, they hope customers will not throw caution to the wind in the midst of their Irish revelry. Saint Patrick’s Day traditionally attracts crowds that stand and intermingle, two actions that are explicitly forbidden this year.
“It’s going to have its challenges to have opened up inside two days before Saint Patrick’s Day, because people don’t always understand the rules, but we’re going to do our absolute best to keep our customers and staff safe,” said Freyer.
O’Sullivan also fears customers are not aware of the current dining protocols and said he’s had several people inquiring about reserving tables for groups as large as 12. Despite his worries O’Sullivan insisted that this is not his “first time at the rodeo” and said he and his staff will have no reservations enforcing the rules.
Per County protocols all dining is restricted to six people per table with each table spaced eight feet apart. Indoor dining is reserved to people from the same household, while outdoor dining can host people from up to three different households.
County regulations also prohibit the playing of TVs at restaurants, much to the ire and confusion of some business owners.
“It really makes no sense to us because they’re saying people will stay longer because of TVs,” said O’Sullivan. “But if you’re turning more tables, then you’re bringing in more people, which increases the odds of bringing in an infected person.”
Despite the challenges and quirks of current regulations, local pubs will not be letting Covid-19 put a damper on this year’s holiday.
“It’s very exciting because we didn’t get to be open last year for Patty’s Day,” said Rachel Silverman, bar manager at Sonny McLean’s. “We’ve got t-shirts, green beer, and Irish music playing all day long. It’s going to be a great atmosphere for Patty’s Day.”
While owners anticipate limited seating will fill up quickly, they encourage residents to order food and drinks to-go and enjoy St. Patrick’s Day from the comfort of their homes.