“It’s the event of the year,” exclaims Bob Knoll, general manager of Fado Irish Pub in St. Louis. He’s talking about St. Patrick’s Day, of course, which, if you own an Irish bar or restaurant, is the Super Bowl times 20. Last Saturday, Knoll said, when St. Louis staged its annual St. Patrick’s Day, set an all-time sales record. On Thursday, the actual holiday, with temperatures expected to be in the 70s, 7 a.m. “pints and pancakes,” and live music throughout the day, he hopes that record will be short-lived.
More than one-quarter of Americans say they plan to visit a restaurant or bar this St. Patrick’s Day, according to a 2011 National Restaurant Association survey. But while establishments that offer all the trappings of the holiday such as Irish stew or green-colored liquid refreshments can expect to pack in the crowds, the National Restaurant Association found that what people really want to do is go where everybody knows their name. “Many restaurants and bars can expect to see their regular guests for the occasion, as ‘your favorite restaurant or bar’ was the most common important factor for picking a place to dine on St. Patrick’s Day.” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association in a press release.
Equally good news for proprietors is news from the National Retail Federation that 52.4% of Americans plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, up from 45.2% last year. Consumers also said they plan to spend slightly more than they did last year. "Eager to shake off the winter blues, consumers will look to St. Patrick's Day as their first spring-related celebration, meaning great things for the economy, retailers and restaurants," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.
St. Patrick’s Day can also be a boon to entrepreneurs. Scott Dietrich, a commercial banker, co-operates the St. Patty’s Pub Crawl in Chicago, which begins at 9:30 a.m. at the local House of Blues, and continues until around 8 p.m. Founded by his cousin 14 years ago as a party for friends, it has expanded to become, according to Time Out Chicago, “the granddaddy of all pub crawls.” Tickets are $40, and this year, Dietrich said, they set a new record with 600 tickets sold.
Ron Halverson, co-owners of Emmit’s Irish Pub in Chicago, hopes that this St. Patrick’s Day is a harbinger of a more robust economy. The recession, he said, cut business in half, but people are starting to party again like it was 2007. Thursday will be “huge,” he said, but the bar already did bang-up business last Saturday when Chicago, too, staged its iconic parade. “Those two days,” he enthused,” really pick up the month.”