Elaine Danis, left, head bartender at the Dunn Barr in Biddeford, serves a customer a drink Thursday while general manager Angela Napolitano pours a pint of Guinness. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Maine bar and restaurant owners are hoping this St. Patrick’s Day will lead the Irish – whether in name or spirit – to party like it’s pre-pandemic 2019.

Owners say they’ve ordered extra beer, cooked up lots of corned beef and booked Irish entertainment to draw people out for the first St. Patrick’s Day on a Friday in six years.

For some Irish pubs in Maine, that means opening early and offering a traditional Irish breakfast for morning celebrants. Bars and restaurants also have Irish musicians scheduled to keep the party going until after midnight.

At Ri Ra, an Irish pub on Commercial Street in Portland, the doors were scheduled to open at 6 a.m. Friday for a traditional Irish breakfast for those taking part in the Paddy’s Day Plunge in icy Casco Bay. Then there’s a breakfast spread, even for people who didn’t brave the frigid Maine waters.

The pub will transition into a day- and night-long party with 55 kegs of Guinness ready to tap, live Irish music, step dancers and surely more than a few Irish tales and jokes.

Manager Matt Lacroix, who insists he has Irish lineage that’s not reflected in his surname, said Ri Ra received a down payment of about a dozen kegs of Guinness by Wednesday and was expecting the rest on Thursday, in plenty of time to quench a thirst or two Friday.


St. Patrick’s Day is a big day for Ri Ra, and Lacroix said the pub usually does about five times the normal business for a late-winter weekend. It also provides a nice financial bridge for the pub and its employees between New Year’s and the start of the Maine summer tourist season, he said.

All-day festivities are also taking place at another Irish-themed Portland establishment, Bull Feeney’s on Fore Street, where manager Brian Tisdale said he’s hoping for a return to the kind of celebration not seen since 2019.

Matt Lacroix, the general manager at Rí Rá, poses for a portrait near the kegs of Guinness that they were being delivered this week in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic less than a week before St. Patrick’s Day in 2020, sending workers home from offices and making pub parties a health risk.

Tisdale said Bull Feeney’s is featuring plenty of Irish food and drink on Friday, and he hopes people will again have an appetite for the fare.

“St. Paddy’s Day for us is a huge staple for our entire business,” he said. “But honestly, we have no idea how it’s going to go.”



At Shay’s Bar in Monument Square, business a year ago was starting to pick up when St. Patrick’s Day arrived, so owner Cooper Gilbert has high hopes for this year.

“They’re pretty high,” he said of his expectations. “Last year was pretty good, too.”

Gilbert is opening Shay’s early – 9 a.m. instead of the normal 11 a.m. – for the breakfast crowd, with Irish food served all day. Last year, his 50 pounds of home-cooked corned beef ran out before demand did, so he’s doubling the amount for this year.

General Manager Angela Napolitano shows off a boiled dinner with corned beef, carrots, cabbage, and potato on Thursday at The Dunn Bar. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“I’m hoping for the best day ever,” he said.

That spirit is shared at the Dunn Bar on Washington Street in Biddeford.

The bar-restaurant opened last June, manager Angelino Napolitano said, and so doesn’t have a track record for St. Patrick’s Day. But she said she understands the importance of the day to any business featuring Irish food, drinks and entertainment.


“This is our first Super Bowl,” she said cheerfully.

Napolitano said she’s booked entertainment for the whole day, including one musician who can play more than a half-dozen instruments, including bagpipes. The restaurant will open early for breakfast, although workers and guests will take a break to observe Biddeford officials raise the Irish flag over City Hall at 7 a.m.

Despite all the bars and restaurants expecting a busy day, St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t create a crush at RSVP, the liquor store on Forest Avenue.

RSVP puts up a major display of Irish beers – Guinness, Harp and the like – in the center of the store. But Monica Howard, RSVP’s manager, said the store doesn’t increase its March beer order, and instead just makes sure it arrives in the first half of the month.

Howard said some customers grab a case of one of the brews for St. Patrick’s Day, but she suspects more people celebrate the holiday by going out and will revert to that tradition.

“We’re seeing a return to the norm this year,” she said.

That’s also true at Hannaford, where the grocery chain is striving to meet Mainers’ appetites for Irish food and drink this holiday.

Specials this week included deals on corned beef, cabbage, parsnips and Irish stew vegetable mix, said Caitlin Cortelyou, spokeswoman for the company. Cortelyou said weekend celebrations usually drive higher demand, so the chain increased its supply of popular cuts of corned beef to be ready.

And, just to make sure all bases were covered, she said, there was a special on Guinness.

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