Holiday is symbolic end of winter for beach restaurants, bars

Nick Feickert, manager at Shenanigan's Irish Pub & Grille on the boardwalk in Ocean City, pours a Shillelagh, the pub's specialty frozen banana kiwi daiquiri. / LAURA EMMONS FILE PHOTO/ BEACHCOMBER

On St. Patrick’s Day, go anywhere in the country and you’ll find people drinking green beer, wearing green and pretending to be Irish for a day.

Here at the beach, the holiday carries a greater meaning — it’s the symbolic end of winter and when many bars and restaurants open for the season.

This year, since the holiday falls on a Saturday and the weather forecast is ideal, Ocean City officials expect business will be booming.

“When the parade and the holiday are the same day, it’s bigger than New Year’s, even bigger than the Fourth of July. It’s crazy,” said Karen Fritz, general manager of Smitty McGee’s in West Fenwick Island. “It’s the biggest day of the entire year.”

For Shenanigan’s Irish Pub & Grille on the boardwalk in Ocean City, it’s the first weekend the restaurant will be open since November. Though they really don’t have to worry about having a lackluster showing on St. Patrick’s Day, a great day makes all the difference.

“For us in particular, we haven’t had revenue since November,” said owner Greg Shockley. “It’s the kickoff of spring. We get to put a few dollars in our pockets until summer starts.”

With the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade to draw thousands of visitors and the general encouragement to start drinking as early and as often as possible, there’s plenty of business to go around.

Patrons hop from restaurant to bar to store to hotel to bar again over the course of the day, and each place has its own special attractions to make an impression.

“When you have people in town, you want them to come back in and have fun,” Fritz said. “If we do a good job on St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll want to come back. It sets the tone for the summer.”

Even bars that don’t serve as Irish pubs look forward to the greenest day of the year. Take The Greene Turtle, for example. Owner Steve Pappas said they’ve already sold a few hundred St. Patrick’s Day shirts, and he expects the popular watering hole to be packed all day long.

“As soon as the parade’s over, it gets packed,” he said. “It’s been a tradition since I’ve been here, which was 1972. We have bagpipers coming by, it’s just packed.”

Once the parade has concluded, a troupe of bagpipers makes its way up Coastal Highway, stopping at bars and restaurants along the way. They finish up at Smitty McGee’s, Fritz said.

Celebrating with bagpipes, green beer and shamrocks, and pinching anyone who isn’t wearing green are all holiday traditions, and no one does St. Patrick’s Day like Ocean City.

“The whole town turns green,” Pappas said. “The mayor’s anticipating over 100,000 vacationers coming down for the weekend. Everybody is packed. We lay out the green carpet for everyone.”

Now that St. Patrick’s Day is here, the season is ready to begin.

“St. Patrick’s Day is what we all look forward to,” Pappas said. “Our unofficial season starts this weekend. Once the parade happens, that means the season is ready to start.”

Source: Ethan Rothstein, delmarvanow.com

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