BANGOR — With her “Pinch me, I will punch you” green Irish T-shirt and a golden ale in her hand, Amy Douglass sat in Paddy Murphy’s Irish pub on Sunday morning measuring just how far from Kansas she has come.
“I have never been up this early in my life. I am totally not kidding,” said the 39-year-old hairdresser and bartender, who moved from Kansas to Orrington about three weeks ago. “I have never celebrated St. Patrick’s Day like this before, unless you count in Kansas, and there the bars aren’t open at all on Sundays.”
“Maine,” Douglass said solemnly, “is very cool.”
Douglass was among about 75 people who celebrated the Irish-American holiday by doing exactly what Gov. Paul LePage and the state Legislature allowed them to do — start the party early.
She and other Paddy’s patrons cheered the emergency legislation LePage signed into law allowing bars and restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day when the holiday falls on a Sunday.
They said they loved the opportunity to begin the celebration of their heritage as early as the Irish in large cities such as Boston or Chicago. Or, as the guys in the Guinness commercials might say, they thought it was “Brilliant!”
“As the owner of a small business, I think this is fantastic,” said Chris Higgins, a 47-year-old proud descendant “from a long line of drunken Irishmen” who owns a metal fabrication shop in Bangor. “It really is a great idea.”
The legislation gives a much-needed boost to bars and restaurants, small businesses like his own, Higgins said.
“Pennies add up to dollars and dollars add up to a lot of money,” Higgins said.
About 40 people were at the door at Paddy’s when bartender Chris Rudolph came to work on Sunday morning. The rest came in over the next few hours, Rudolph said.
Except for a handful of small children in the bar’s dining area, the crowd at Paddy’s looked much like a group you’d see later in the day. Everyone wore green, a shamrock or some other symbol of the holiday. The music played by the Bar Stuards, a house band at Paddy’s, was a mix of traditional St. Paddy’s Day standards and their own songs.
Corned beef and cabbage was served, as were Scotch eggs — hardboiled eggs wrapped in meat and fried. Black-and-tans and Guinness beer seemed to dominate the libations, though some patrons bemoaned the lack of any beer dyed green. Higgins said he was concerned about the gastrointestinal effect of combining beer and Scotch eggs at such an early hour.
“It’s dangerous,” Higgins said. “I am glad that there are no confined spaces here.”
Higgins was less concerned about the effect of earlier drinking on state traffic. He said he thought most people would party smart. Those that don’t will have to find a designated driver, walk, or “take a measure of personal responsibility for their actions,” he said.
State Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, agreed with Higgins. She and Bangor state Reps. Aaron M. Frey and John Schneck, both Democrats, visited Paddy’s shortly after it opened at the invitation of owner John Dobbs.
Dobbs pushed for the emergency legislation because he felt it was as much for the sake of Irish families as anything else, Cain said. Dobbs also wanted to open at 6 a.m. this year because St. Patrick’s Day is his busiest annually.
“It was great. I am glad I went. It was clear that the place was packed and people were happy,” said Cain. “I think for most people this is just a normal St. Patrick’s Day. My hope would be, and I always think, that people should be responsible drivers.”
Of Irish descent, Cain had one Guinness before she left. Having beer that early in the day “was a first for me,” she said.
Cain, who supported the legislation, said several bars in Portland, and perhaps one or two in Augusta, had planned to open early on Sunday.