A day in the life of three Irish pub workers on St Patrick’s Day

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For many pubs in Ireland, St Patrick’s Day is the biggest day in the calendar, even storming the likes of Christmas and the height of summer. 

But over the years, the holiday has gone on to build steam all around the globe – favoured by Irish expats and also just humble locals who’ll take any excuse to sink a Guinness or ten. 

Wherever you are in the world, you can guarantee kegs will be drained, larger will be spilt and more than a couple of people won’t remember being carried home. 

st patricks day

St Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest days of the year (Credit: Alamy)

We’ve all got our own stories from St Paddy’s celebrations gone by, but who could have better stories than a pub worker?

To get an insight into one of the most manic days of the year, we spoke to three Irish pub workers,  and asked them to share a day in their lives on St Patrick’s Day. 

Here’s what Séamus, owner of London’s Howl at the Moon, Moshe, owner of New Jersey’s Hailey’s Harp and Pub and Tracy, manager of Belfast’s Fibber Magee, had to say… 

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Séamus (left), Moshe (middle) and Tracy (right) (Credit: Howl at the Moon/ Haileys Harp and Pub/ Fibber Magee)

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Séamus (Howl at the Moon, London): There’s definitely an anticipation in the morning, and we always try to get staff pumped for it. Before we open, everyone’s blowing up balloons and putting up bunting. It’s actually really fun. 

I would have my managers inside the pub from nine and they’ll be making sure that all of the kegs are stacked up – we normally have two taps of Guinness running in the pub, but on Paddy’s Day we have four to five. It’s a fucking massive day for us. 

At this time we’re also making sure all the glasses are there and that we’ve sorted the staff as well.. sometimes people pull out or you get people calling in sick so the morning is for troubleshooting all of that. It can be a big operation. 

Moshe (Hailey’s Harp and Pub, New Jersey): Where we are in Central New Jersey there are a lot of Irish people and a lot of parades, and America always goes big for St Patrick’s Day. It’s every Irish pub’s biggest day of the year. 

Right from when our doors open we’ll see some of our regulars and also some people that have come from out of state walking in. Everyone’s wearing green…people dye their hair green, and our whole staff goes crazy. 

There’s a lot of excitement in the air. It’s palpable. Some beers might accidentally get poured and we move on from there…it only continues to ramp up! 

Tracy (Fibber Magee, Belfast): Once we get Christmas out the way that’s when St Patrick’s Day preparation begins. Being in Northern Ireland, we get a lot of tourists as well as local business, so those inquiries will be coming in months ahead.

On the day itself, we’ve already put a lot of time in. I always feel a bit of excitement, and think ‘yes, we’re gonna have a really good day’ but also apprehension about what’s gonna happen this year.

The biggest issue is making sure the bar is stocked and that all your staff are going to turn in, and that good numbers of people turn up.

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Howl at the Moon decked out for St Paddy’s (Credit: Twitter/ Howl at the Moon)

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Séamus (Howl at the Moon, London): Midday is always a weird one. It’s still a little quiet but you know the storm is coming.

There’ll be a few lads in there, drinking Guinness and just chatting, getting a good few pints in early.

We also notice that during the day especially, there will be groups of families with their older children, which is nice – people in their 40s and maybe even some in their 60s… maybe they’re from Ireland and want to mark the day before the madness starts. 

One of my favourite parts of the day is chatting to people like that. It’s really nice listening to those stories of the second and fourth generation Irish people. 

Moshe (Hailey’s Harp and Pub, New Jersey): By 12, more drinks are being poured and [as for the food] we just churn and burn all day! It’s all hands on deck. 

For the most part it’s just straight Irish fare. It’s my understanding that in Ireland and England there’s less of the corned beef going on and you guys have bacon rashers, but it’s really big here. Then, we have chicken fingers and hotdogs for those who aren’t into it. 

Historically, we are pleasantly packed at this time. [As well as the locals], you have the people who have taken the day off work joining, too. 

It’s why we tell the nice old ladies that come in and have some tea and Irish soda bread to come another day!

Tracy (Fibber Magee, Belfast): Guinness is flowing from the minute we open the door. It’s a bank holiday here so you see the pub fill up early on.

People are excited and everyone’s dressed in green, even the staff. We even have merchandise – silly bow ties and things like that.

Because everyone’s off we’re actually really, really busy the night before, too. So you get a lot of sore heads on St Paddy’s Day. People need a cure to get the day started – and that’s usually our chicken wings. 

st patricks day fibber magee

Fancy dress is a must at Fibber Magee (Credit: Facebook/ Fibber Magee)


Séamus (Howl at the Moon London): As it gets later in the afternoon our trad music starts and you begin to see the groups coming in, getting ahead of the after work rush.

I’ve been working 30 years and own two bars, and when you see the waves of people start to come in, you’re always like, ‘alright, fuck…here goes.’ 

This is when you really start to see an atmosphere. People will be taking pictures with the balloons and stuff, drinks will be flowing. You know the drill. 

Moshe (Hailey’s Harp and Pub, New Jersey): By early afternoon, drinks are flowing like a river. Our traditional Irish music starts at two o’clock and it’s usually packed. Everyone’s shoulder to shoulder just bopping around. 

In 2019, we booked an Irish music duo to play during the day, but by two when they started we were completely full and the party was going full swing. 

The duo set up and started playing but they soon stopped and started packing up to leave. 

When I asked them why they were leaving, they said they couldn’t even hear themselves above the din of the bar and simply couldn’t continue. I was upset but the crowd didn’t seem to care so I just blasted some Irish pub rock on the house speakers and bid them farewell! 

Tracy (Fibber Magee, Belfast): Irish music has started by now and everybody’s dancing. 

There’s usually for the parade in Belfast around this time, so new people drop in on the way back from that.

At about four we do a champ eating contest, which is where we give [around 30] people a bowl of champ [an Irish potato dish] and a Guinness and see who can finish it the fastest. 

It’s an annual thing and a lot of people use it as a way of getting a free feed, so they can continue drinking. I think we had someone do it in around 20 seconds once! It’s hilarious. 

We’ve seen it all. We’ve had people who’ve vomited it back into the bowl and one person was genius and mixed their champ into their Guinness so they could drink it. 

Who knows, maybe that could be a new special?! 

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st patricks day trad music

Trad music is often a big part of proceedings (Credit: Alamy)


Séamus (Howl at the Moon, London): At this point the staff are really going for it. We’re pushing drinks out and we’re probably at our busiest. 

Some people have been drinking for hours and then there’s still other people arriving with loads of energy. As well as our usual crowd, Paddy’s Day brings out people who don’t necessarily drink that much normally, but for one night a year they’re in an environment where they are drinking fast. 

It’s fair to say [it gets a bit stressful] at this point, but we always say to staff, if you want to have fun, nobody’s going to stop that. Drink your shots, just don’t get hammered. 

You’d normally be a bit more mindful of that stuff, and making sure someone’s picking up glasses and all those different things, but this night is all about making sure people get served.

Moshe (Hailey’s Harp and Pub, New Jersey): Six o’clock is probably my highest energy level. We’ve been running around and doing all the food during the day and now it’s time for the party.

Generally our demographic is 35 to 50, but it does get a little younger in the evening. 

It becomes a bit of a homecoming, you know? A kind of a reunion of people that don’t get to see each other most of the year because now they’re they’ve had kids and they have jobs and careers and all that, which is nice. 

People who come in from out of state… they just come in and often hit it hard. We serve our alcohol responsibly, of course, but [at this time] there’s generally at least one or two groups of people that might have to leave because one of their members had that second shot of Jameson.

We get a corned beef sandwich in them and send them on their way!

Tracy (Fibber Magee, Belfast): It’s interesting to see the customers change throughout the day. Older customers tend to come out during the day and they’ll get the train home around now. 

Quite often at this time, you’ll get the people who wanted to start early and pace themselves realising it hasn’t quite worked, so they’re heading off, too. 

You also start to see the younger ones come out at night, and people’s drinks shift from Guinness to whiskey or gin, and plenty of shots. 

There are some characters, too! We once had a customer who came with his pet snake hidden in his jacket. We had to explain that obviously people might be a little bit frightened, and point out that St Patrick was the one that drew the snakes out of Ireland…

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St Paddy’s celebrations in full swing (Credit: Alamy)


Séamus (Howl at the Moon, London): After nine it’s getting messy. I might not often remember past this time, but I’ll still be there!

People are on the tables, people are falling off them, and everyone’s packed into the pub.

In London, the attitude is generally to go out early and finish early, but in Ireland, the culture is to go out later, so on Paddy’s Day you see a solid crew of Irish people drinking hard right until close. You’ll tell ‘em the bar is closing and they’re like savages roaring us! 

In all seriousness, it’s always a great vibe on St Paddy’s day. The atmosphere is just positive and you rarely get any agg. 

We all enjoy ourselves, too. Over the years, we’ve seen some crazy shit go down, [and not just from the customers!].

One year, [the team] came in in the morning, and I was whacked out asleep on a foam keg mat. They got some shock because you know, you think you’re in the pub by yourself and then there’s me, sound asleep!

Moshe (Hailey’s Harp and Pub, New Jersey): By this time we’ll often have a line out the door so there’s that to think about. Luckily we have a really good security team that have been doing this for many years. 

If there are 50 people in the line, you know at least five of them are thinking about how they can sneak in!

We’ll probably stay open until about one, because nothing great happens after that hour! 

We can kind of read the room and if everyone’s had their fill we start turning up the lights and handing them their hats, so to speak.

When the last customer leaves it’s a beautiful exhaustion.The whole day is kind of like a battle. It’s hard but then there’s a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when you know you’ve won. 

We locked the door, then the team have a shot, eat some food and regale ourselves with the tales of the day.

Tracy (Fibber Magee, Belfast): It’s very rare that people do last the whole day, but even when the crowd thins out, the people that remain have the same energy. 

When we’re closing, it’s a whole new job to convince people they have to leave! 

Then there’s a big clean up, and we would always have a drink at the end of the night.

I’ve always found it takes you forever to wind down afterwards because you’re so hyped up on the adrenaline from working all day long. 

It feels great that so many people got to experience it at our pub, though. That’s always really special.