CINCINNATI — The crowds aren't as large as a typical year, but just over one year after bars across Ohio were forced to shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, bars and restaurants are eager to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
"You can kind of feel the energy in the building, which is nice," said Alex Gavigilio, beverage manager at Yard House.
After a difficult year at The Banks, restaurant owners in the area said things are finally beginning to pick back up.
"It's getting better," said Jim Moehring, owner of Holy Grail Tavern & Grille. "The curfew lift has been a godsend. It really has helped us."
Bars and restaurants at The Banks were forced to shut down dine-in service just days before the holiday in 2020.
Though there are still social distancing and masking policies still in place, businesses are happy to be able to accommodate any kind of crowd this year.
"Obviously we still have restrictions in place and things look a little bit different, but we're excited," said Gavigilio. "We're excited about today and the future. Everything is looking up."
Bars and restaurants at The Banks are hoping for a busy evening but are also looking forward, to March 25, when the City of Cincinnati will open an outdoor open-container district in the area.
The Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or DORA district, will allow people to buy alcoholic drinks and carry them around The Banks. Eventually the city plans to transform Freedom Way to make it more pedestrian-friendly and add outdoor spaces for people to utilize.
"I think we're going to see a lot, a lot of people come down here," said Danny Scott, owner of Fishbowl at the Banks. "We're going to have a lot more space outside and it's a little safer to come outside and enjoy yourself."
At the Holy Grail Tavern & Grille, a second holiday can be celebrated as well: The business is celebrating a 10th anniversary that Moehring said became uncertain after the pandemic and shutdown.
"It is a huge celebration and not just as our 10th anniversary, not just St. Patrick's Day, but bluntly that we made it through," he said. "That we made it through the last 12 months, because it's been brutal."