MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Irish pubs in the Twin Cities are preparing to celebrate in a way that was missed in 2020.

St. Patrick’s Day is next Wednesday. Last year, the holiday was basically canceled when the pandemic lockdown began.

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Standing before a set of white boards covered in blueprints of his restaurant and Post-It notes, Michael Runyon acknowledged there was a tall task ahead. He co-owns Shamrocks Grill and Pub in St. Paul.

“This is like putting on a ginormous wedding,” Runyon said. “We’re taking reservations, which we usually don’t take for St. Paddy’s Day.”

It’s not how they drew it up in previous years, but simply hosting a St. Patrick’s Day party has Runyon feeling lucky.

“It’s kind of like the welcome back to the restaurants,” he said.

The St. Paul City Council unanimously approved the restaurant’s request to turn its parking lot into a patio with live music. Masks will be required when not seated, and capacity limits continue — rules that Runyon is happy to follow for a chance to celebrate the holiday.

“It’s been a tough year. This is a great shining moment that we get to do,” he said.

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(credit: CBS)

Inside O’Donovan’s Irish Pub in downtown Minneapolis, the sanded-and-stained bar top and new flooring will have to wait a few more weeks for their debut. Nearly a year ago, owner Dermot Cowley showed WCCO their bounty of booze ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, none of which was poured. The restaurant hasn’t reopened since the March 2020 shutdown.

This year, staff decided to skip the holiday and stay closed, in part due to safety concerns surrounding the Derek Chauvin trial.

“The city seems to have a good grip on the policing of it this time around,” Cowley said. “But [reopening] just didn’t feel right.”

Staff and customer safety isn’t the only reason O’Donovan’s is remaining closed. It’s waiting for its main customer base to return to downtown, which includes people who attend music venues nearby like First Avenue, and sporting events like Twins games at Target Field.

“We’re gonna open on Monday, the 5th of April, which is three days before the Twins [home] opener. And we‘ve our fingers crossed the governor’s gonna say 10,000 fans can come to the games,” Cowley said.

Both he and Runyon say the progression of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution and lower infection rates have them optimistic that the pandemic is starting to turn the corner. Both are simply glad their restaurants survived the past year to make it to another St. Patrick’s Day, and beyond.

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“Hopefully better days are coming down the road,” Cowley said.

Jeff Wagner