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This article was published 17/3/2021 (214 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Packed tables, live music and a sea of socially distanced green.
It felt almost normal on Wednesday evening as Winnipeg pubs were able to open for the first St. Patrick’s Day in two years.
Lineups snaked out the door and patios filled up as early as noon at some eateries. Customers who wanted a pint had to order a meal as well, a pandemic regulation that kept people around longer than usual, Toad in the Hole pub manager Sam Matthews said.
While acknowledging success in the time of COVID-19 was relative, Matthews noted there was a time in the day when people were waiting outside to get in and customers were excited to return.
"The customers are very respectful, more so on this reopening than the first reopening, respectful of the regulations I mean," he said. "Everyone seems to be a little more in line and understanding. The music’s not cranked, obviously, but everybody’s still having fun and shaking off a bit of the cabin fever."
The Toad reopened on Monday, but Matthews said Wednesday marked the first day customers really showed up, adding that advertising for the reopening was low-key. The reopening felt particularly meaningful considering the Toad’s unfortunate luck a year ago – after closing its original Osborne Street location on New Year’s Eve, the pub was slated to reopen at a new spot down the street on that St. Patrick’s Day. The pandemic ruined that.
Tonight, however, Matthews said he was "thrilled" to be back at it.
"I would say it’s a success. Everyone’s trying to make the best of it and being respectful," he said.
Meanwhile, at Fionn MacCool’s on Grant Avenue, live music was part of the experience for a full patio. In true D.I.Y. style, one-man band Grant Leutschaft performed cover songs from the back of a truck owned by restaurant owner Jay Kilgour’s father.
On Saturday, the province loosened regulations for patios: up to six people from different households are allowed at a table.
The new rules were the perfect opportunity for Kerrine Wilson and her five friends to meet up at Fionn’s Wednesday evening. All six belong to a jazz enthusiast club, which would meet every Tuesday night pre-pandemic. They weren’t able to meet virtually — "We’re older, you know," she joked – so the close-knit group hasn’t seen each other in months.
Wilson, decked out in a green hat and scarf, said she’s overjoyed to see her friends again and celebrate one of her favourite holidays.
"I’m Irish. I just love the energy, the excitement, the food is wonderful. It’s great to be with my friends again."
Wilson’s plan for the rest of the evening? Finishing a Guinness — "Of course," she said — and potato skins, her favourite.
"It’s a wonderful place, and it’s wonderful to be together… I’m very proud to celebrate with this family, with these people," she said.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.