Bartenders at Denver's Irish bars spill about working on St. Patrick's Day
The patio of the Irish Snug last St. Patrick's Day.
Guinness, Jameson, car bombs, bag pipes, corned beef, Harp and an awful hangover: Those are just some of the things that come to mind when the average person thinks of St. Patrick's Day. And the list is the same for bartenders at Irish pubs -- with the notable additions of a nineteen-hour work day, cleaning up vomit and getting yelled at by amateur drinkers.
While almost everyone pretends to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day, not many think about what this holiday is like for the fine people who provide all the drinks to the rest of us. So in advance of tomorrow's celebration, we asked some of Denver's finest what it's like to work on the only day when people are encouraged to dress in all-green and dance like idiots in public. Here's what they said:
Shelly Davis, bartender, Patrick Carroll's
St. Patrick's Day drink of choice: We definitely always start it off with a little Jameson in the coffee.
What's your favorite part of working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? This bar is cool because of the neighborhood. You see something different. It's a completely different space on that day than it typically is. There are a lot of families. We serve a different kind of food and a band comes in, which we don't normally get to do here. We get some dancers -- little girls from nine to twelve who come out and do tap and stuff like that. It's just a different day entirely. What's the worst part of working on St. Patrick's Day? The parts where it does get a little too completely crazy. It can be long and we're here late. We move all the furniture out and all the glassware out and we're going to open up at eight, so it's more of a commitment and investment for the entire week.
What's your worst story from working St. Patrick's Day? Last year we had some crazy people that punched out the entire window on the front of the building and then on the antique shop a couple doors down. And then washing the vomit off of the sidewalk out front is obnoxious.
What are some dos and don'ts for customers on St. Patrick's Day? Definitely no whistling or shouting "Hey you!" or expecting anything to be instantaneous. Being disrespectfully, obnoxiously wasted is not the best way to go. You should probably eat something, or a lot. Cash would be nice so we don't have to get crazy with credit cards in here.
Tell us something we don't know about working St. Patrick's Day. The time it takes to pull it all together. We work for months on the inventory that goes into supplying a day like that. Our general manager is going 24 hours a day in contact with reps trying to get Jameson girls in here and get sponsored by Guinness and Budweiser. It's not a matter of clocking in at 8 a.m. and being pleasant. There are a lot of other things that go into it, like having banks and we all wear stupid outfits to try and take ourselves a little less seriously.
Patrick Carroll's St. Patrick's Day events: Breakfast starting at 8 a.m., Irish dancers, bagpipes, leprechaun appearance and live music from Gobs O' Phun starting at 5 p.m.
Alan O'Gorman, owner, The Irish Rover
St. Patrick's Day drink of choice: Guinness.
What's your favorite part of working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? I just think the interaction with people and the pride in Ireland. Everybody having a good time.
What's your favorite story from working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? A lot of it would have to do with people who generally don't get out a lot any more as they get older and tend to come back that day and New Year's Eve. They kind of make it their home for the afternoon. They become friends. It's a neighborhood bar and we have a lot of the neighborhood crowd here, people from the Baker neighborhood and Wash Park neighborhood.
What's your least favorite story from working St. Patrick's Day? Not being able to accommodate everybody and only having a specific amount of room for everybody. Having a line outside of people waiting to get in and being able to service everybody. There's only so many people we can fit here, and that's always a difficult thing every year. We generally get maxed out to capacity and can't fit any more people in. You want to let everybody in if you can, but you get to that point where there's no more room. That's a challenge every year for sure. What are some dos and don'ts for customers on St. Patrick's Day? Don't bring your car. I'd like to describe the Rover as a lot of people coming in for one pint and staying for four, so it's always a good thing to plan ahead and leave the car at home and enjoy the afternoon. Do drink responsibly. We can't always control that, but provided people are having a good time, that's all that matters. We don't have any problems here; it's generally a decent crowd.
Green beer, fun or hokey? I can't stand it. We don't believe in it at all. It's not what we're into. We pour really good pints of Guinness and that doesn't go with our flow. Tell us something we don't know about working on St. Patrick's Day. A lot of people don't realize how long of a day it is for the staff. Most of our staff will get here at eight in the morning and leave at six in the morning the following day. That's par for the course for the business, and guys who work here get along really well. Without them it wouldn't be happening. A lot of people don't realize that if it wasn't for the people working the bar, it wouldn't be in existence. It's a reflection of the place. They put in a long day and get the drinks over the counter as fast as they can. Most people understand that, and it's a good day for everybody.
The Irish Rover St. Patrick's Day events: Patty's hour from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.: free Guinness, Smithwick's and Harp. Emerald Society pipe band, Irish dancers, face-painting, raffling off a Jameson snowboard.
Danny Eatlinar, bartender, Irish Snug
St. Patrick's Day drink of choice: Guinness and Jameson.
What's your favorite part of working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? That I don't have to walk through the sea of people.
What's your least favorite part of working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? Working nineteen hours. What's your favorite story from working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? You just see so many random people that come in and it's nuts. You can definitely tell it's not your normal clientele. Just seeing how many different people come in, and it gives everyone a chance to be Irish for the day and it's pretty funny.
What's the worst story you have from working St. Patrick's Day? It always gets to the point later in the evening when people are so hammered and it's almost like babysitting. During the day it's not bad. People come in and drink and have fun, but at night it's like, "Okay, just relax. You don't need to be drinking four more shots of Jameson." When people get super sloppy, that's the toughest part. What are some dos and don'ts for customers on St. Patrick's Day? You really have to try and be fair to the people. A lot of the people who come in that day don't come in to bars a lot, so their etiquette isn't always great. You have to be really, really patient. People are yelling at you, "I'm waiting!" Of course you're waiting, there's 500 people here. When they order a drink and you bring them the drink and they say, "Now I need this." People need to try to order everything at once. You try to make things fast and efficient and sometimes the customer is actually the one prohibiting you from doing that.
Green beer, fun or hokey? No green beer here, just Irish beer.
Tell us something we don't know about working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? Just the amount of work. I think a lot of people walk in and don't know how long we've been here. The average St. Patrick's Day is sixteen hours at least, that's the shortest shift. A lot of people think, "They probably came in at five or six." Yeah, but in the morning. And then everyone leaves and you're still here for another three hours putting everything back together and getting ready for the next day.
Irish Snug St. Patrick's Day events: 5,000 square foot tent out back with bands playing all day. Bagpipers. Traditional Irish food all day and $5 beers.
Wendi Ruggiero, Bartender, Fado Irish Pub
St. Patrick's Day drink of choice: There is a very stict no drinking rule at Fado, so I stick with coffee or water. If I was on the other side of the wood, Ketel One Citroen and water.
What is the best part of working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? We make great money! Besides that part, everyone is Irish for one day. Even the Storm Troopers from Star Wars are wearing Kilts. My very fave though is that we put a tent up over our patio for the winter months. There are heat lamps and this allows us to use the space all year long. Right before St Patrick's Day that tent comes down. It's the beginning of it all. Spring has sprung! St Baldrick's, St Patrick's, Running of the Green, the parade, and then opening day of the Rockies. We all get very excited when we walk up to the front steps, and the tent has disappeared! It makes me smile every year.
What is your least favorite part of working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? The fake Irish accent is painful. We are so super busy, and usually put in a good number of hours for many days straight, so after one or two imitators my sense of humor has faded. What is your favorite story from working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? St. Baldrick's is my favorite story! We sponsor and event every year for them, and it is an amazing cause. We raise money for Children's Cancer Research and that day is full of some pretty strong energy.
On a smaller scale, we see a lot of regulars. Our neighbors from the block, friends, and family, even old employees make an appearance on St. Patrick's Day. It is always nice to see a familiar face. One year a complete stranger came in and bought a case of Red Bull for all the bartenders. Those little cans are $4 each! It was a really nice gesture and absolutely gave us wings. What is your least favorite story from working behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day? There will always be evil intoxicated frat-esque guy. He has a different face every year, and has no idea what proper math skills are when it comes to gratuity. He has somehow learned our names and uses them broken-record style. He will say something like "smile," or "how come you don't smile," 156 times in an attempt to get us to walk around like the Cheshire Cat all day. He is not a good time.
What are some dos and don'ts for patrons on St. Patrick's Day? I could write a book on this. Drink some water. It is a marathon not a sprint. Tip. Tip well. Do not wave your arms like you are on fire, yelling, and angry and then have no idea what you want to order when I come over to you. Tip. Tip well. If the sun is still up, you should not be crying. Your camera, purse and phone belong to you, not me. I am sorry you misplaced it, but I assure you I do not have it. Tip. Tip well. Snapping, yelling, whistling are rude. I do not come into your cubicle and act like that! Manners are a must. Tip.Please.
Green beer, fun or cheesy? Velveta. Sorry, Fado does not do green beer.
Tell us something we don't know about working the bar on St. Patrick's Day? All the boys behind the bar wear green boxers.
Fado St. Patrick's Day events: Music and traditional Irish food all day.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.