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For Irish pubs, no worse time to close

There’s never a good time for restaurants to be told they must shut down dine-in operations indefinitely.

But for Irish pubs in southeastern Connecticut, there’s an additional burden to being told they must close at 8 p.m. Monday, the night before St. Patrick’s Day. That’s the directive the governors of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey gave on Monday morning for bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alex Levere, owner of the Inishmor Pub in Colchester, said this is usually the time of year he can put some money in his savings or afford to go on a vacation. He estimates he has about 1,200 pounds of corned beef right now, roughly half of which has already been cooked.

He estimates that he would bring in $14,000 on a St. Patrick’s Day that falls on a Tuesday in non-pandemic times, but now he’s hoping Inishmor will bring in $3,000 doing take-out on Tuesday.

Levere said he had three bagpipers in on Saturday and decided to operate at partial capacity. But he got some backlash on social media.

“Tonight we were torn apart for being open and having three bagpipers in for 45 minutes,” he wrote on Inishmor’s Facebook page early Sunday morning. “A ‘celebration’ some called it. Down 32% is not a celebration; it’s called surviving.”

But there were also people writing the bar checks Sunday night.

Levere said he usually would do a full Irish breakfast this time of year, and he was going to have 12-14 people playing with the Clan Ross Pipe Band on Tuesday, so he’s looking at $25,000-30,000 in losses overall.

On St. Patrick’s Day this year, Levere will be serving corned beef, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, and more for delivery and pickup. The pub doesn’t have a phone, but he said people can place orders on Facebook, in person, or by emailing inishmorpub@gmail.com.

Levere expects that he could end up being closed for six weeks, but even when things go back to normal, his concern “is there’s going to be this paranoia that sticks around for a while.” He plans to do a “St. Patrick’s Day re-do” in June or July.

Leo Roche owns not one but three Irish pubs: Harp and Hound in Mystic, The Black Sheep in Niantic, and The Brazen Hen in Westerly. These restaurants have respectively been open for 17, 11 and seven years, and Roche said “never in my wildest dreams” did he think anything like this would ever happen.

But he commented, “It is what it is. We’re dealing with it the best we can.”

Roche said all three restaurants will be doing takeout, and people can just call to place an order. He suspected local restaurants would get shut down because of the coronavirus, having seen that happening in Ireland, and he said his restaurants weren’t as busy this past weekend as they usually are.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that effective Tuesday, on-site dining at Rhode Island restaurants was banned until at least March 30, therefore impacting The Brazen Hen.

“Hopefully we get through this, everybody together,” Roche said, having noted that his interest right now is making enough money to pay his staff. “I know everybody’s hurting, but my concern is everybody will hopefully stay healthy, and we get through this all together.”

Tuesday would’ve been the first St. Patrick’s Day open for Forty Thieves in Groton. The bar has been celebrating since Friday. Owner Diarm Hanafin said it was busy this weekend and he had his best Sunday yet.

There were DJs Friday and Saturday night, and live Irish music Sunday night, plus corned beef throughout the weekend.

One thing that Hanafin called “luck of the Irish” was the timing for his ability to serve food. He’s been trying to get the kitchen up and running since the bar opened in September, and after some back-and-forth with the City of Groton, he got approval for his pizza ovens on Friday. So, he plans to offer pizza to go.

“If everybody has to shut down for a week or two or three weeks, it sucks, but it’s better than the worst-case scenario,” Hanafin said. He later added, “You can make money all the time, but your health is what’s important.”

e.moser@theday.com 

 

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