COVINGTON, Ky. — A year ago Tuesday, local bars and restaurants had to close their dining rooms on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. Now, they’re ready for one of their busiest days of the year, though it may look different than celebrations past.
For Paul Shanley, owner of Molly Malone’s in Covington, Wednesday’s St. Patrick’s Day event has been a party two years in the making.
"Bands, two different stages inside. Irish dancers and pipers will be there throughout the day. Green beer. Plenty of Guinness, plenty of Irish whiskey, plenty of food -- just a smaller crowd, and more distancing," he said.
WCPO spoke to Shanley in 2020 the night Kentucky bars were forced to close dining rooms and switch to carry-out only due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Timing couldn't be worse,” Shanley said this time last year. “St. Patrick's Day is by far our biggest day. It's huge around here."
The chairs went up, and the business closed down. They’re focused now on moving forward.
"It's a watered down version of what we normally do with a street party, but at least we can do something."
Molly Malone’s is already booked solid for indoor reservations. It's first come, first served outside, and each group will have 2 1/2 hours at their table.
Nearby, at Braxton Brewing Company, co-founder Jake Rouse says people are ready to go out again.
“They're ready to come out in a safe environment,” he said. “They're ready to spend time with friends and family in a place they trust. I think we'll have a lot of shining faces."
Green beer and a good time are on tap, Rouse said.
"The past four weeks as the weather broke has really shown us what the brighter future can look like," he said.
As bright as that could be, he reflected on where he was a year ago and how Braxton has gotten by with the community’s help.
“It was dark,” he recalled. “Still the hardest part of my life getting through that. I think we're a stronger team. I think we've learned a lot about ourselves and our business. I think we're here to stay for years to come."
He's hopeful that Wednesday will show the "grass is actually greener" on the other side.
"Once St. Patrick's Day, it's kind of the turnaround,” Rouse said. “You're looking to spring. March Madness immediately follows, then Opening Day. You have this run of amazing cultural events here in the city. It just kicks off what's good to look forward to."