“Bright and early, 7 o’clock,” Eamon said from behind the bar when asked if they opened as usual yesterday, the first Good Friday since 1927 on which pubs could open.
“There was a big enough crowd here. John, who works in the morning, had to kick out eight or nine fellas, drunks from last night, which is normal, people who had been out all night.”
There were no novelty seekers looking to be the first to have a pint on Good Friday — just familiar faces.
“You’ll always have those lads, the regulars, fellas come here before they go to their local,” said Eamon.
The afternoon trade was quiet, but Eamon feared a calm before a storm.
“I’ve a bad feeling it’s going to be busy tonight, Paddy’s Day Mark 2. So far it’s quiet enough, just the regulars,” he said.
Going from the regulars to the not-so-regulars, Le Chateau on St Patrick St is a popular spot with tourists — but proprietor Michael Reidy admitted having mixed feelings yesterday.
“As a family man and a practising Catholic, I would prefer if we were closed, to spend time with my family and to go to church, but as a businessman, I think we have to move on,” he said.
“This year we were closed for two days because of the bad weather, and three days for renovations, so I lost five days this year.”
Despite his reservations, Michael said he did not receive any negative feedback about his decision to open.
“In fact, there are people here who want to break the tradition of Good Friday and have a drink, that’s why they’re here today,” he said.
Not many people will know what life was like the last time pubs opened on Good Friday, but 98-year-old Maura Hallinan, no stranger to the trade, was pulling pints at her grandson Stephen Hackett’s new pub on Douglas St yesterday — which he has named ‘Nana’s’ in her honour.
“They’re making me older and older,” she laughed.
“Stephen would get up to anything, he’s always at silly things like that. But I suppose it was a nice thought.”
And her thoughts on the change in law?
“It’s good for the publicans. They’re going through such a bad stretch, with the drink driving and all this stuff. An extra day will bring up the revenue. They work long hours.”
Did she enjoy her annual day off before the new law?
“We always did a bit of decorating or went off for a drive to Glengarriff for the day, things like that,” said Maura.
“But everything is changing nowadays. I’m glad I’m not coming in, I prefer to be going out. It’s hard on the working man, and it’s hard on the publicans.”
Stephen is optimistic about his new venture on Douglas St, an area that has seen an influx of new business and development.
“A lot of people around here are learning from what MacCurtain St did, the Victorian Quarter, and there is a business association here where we’re all pulling together to rejuvenate the area and hopefully it’ll kick off and we’ll be ahead of the game,” he said.
From fledgling enterprises to well-established institutions, Michael Kilmartin of Barry’s of Douglas said breakfast was busier than usual yesterday, and lunch was on a par with a normal Friday, noting there are more families around.
“This evening we’ve an extra couple of bodies on,” he said. “I expect it to be good, to be honest with you.”
Michael welcomed the law change, particularly given the days lost to the Beast from the East.
“I think it’s very, very positive,” he said. “It’s been out there for a good number of years and I think it’s about time pubs were allowed open. For lots of shops it’s like a normal trading day so pubs should be allowed open.
“We lost two days that week of the snow. We closed up early on the Wednesday — it was exceptionally quiet — all day Thursday, and we actually closed on Friday. We’d have opened but getting staff, chefs, and supplies in was a problem so we lost two full days trading and a Wednesday night as well.”
What did surprise him was the trade on Thursday night this week.
“I thought being open on Good Friday, Holy Thursday wouldn’t have been as busy as usual, but we had a very, very busy Holy Thursday,” said Michael.
“There was a great buzz around, and people were saying they were looking forward to going for a pint on Good Friday, so I think we’ll have a busy night.”
The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said opening the pubs on Good Friday will generate over €40m in sales for bars across the country.
It said Good Friday will also generate over €7m in Vat and excise duty contributions to the exchequer.