One last St. Patrick's Day celebration at the Douglas Tavern
St. Patrick's Day at the Douglas Tavern in Douglas, 120 kilometres west of Ottawa. (Dylan Dyson/CTV News Ottawa)
DOUGLAS, ONT. -- A couple months ago when it was announced the Douglas Tavern had been sold, owners Terry and Evelyn McHale were worried they would not be able to have one last St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
The small town of Douglas, about 120 kilometres west of Ottawa, has a reputation for being the 'Irish capital of Canada', and the Douglas Tavern is where all the celebrations revolve around.
But the luck of the Irish fell upon the McHale’s this March 17. The Tavern was allowed a maximum of 50 people inside, customers had to wear masks when not seated at their tables, and a band played behind a plastic sheet.
Unlike years gone by there was no parade down Douglas’s main street, no line up outside the tavern, and no crowds inside.
But for the McHale’s, who are retiring and handing over the keys to the tavern June 2, that will all do just fine.
"Yeah we’re happy, because it’s the last year for us," says Evelyn McHale. "Last year we could do nothing, we were closed, and 50 is better than none."
"It’s disappointing, the fact that we can’t have all the people in the way we’d like to have," says Terry McHale. "We’re used to having big crowds around on St. Patricks Day... But this year at least we’re open, and we can get a few people in for the last year."
Douglas resident Gwen Dick managed to get a table inside the tavern on Wednesday, but thought her last chance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day had come and gone.
"I thought I would not be coming here at all because of my age and I couldn’t stand in line."
"We didn’t really know what to expect," said Chantal Boldt, who has been attending the Douglas Tavern for the last 20 years. "We didn’t know if there would be a huge line up or not."
Boldt spend the day at the Douglas Tavern playing cards with her friend Karen Shea, who has also been a regular at the tavern for the past two decades.
"It has a different feel to it knowing that it’s the last big celebration that we’re going to have here together," said Shea. "But we’re still here to make the best of it."
Despite masks and bottles of hand sanitizer joining the beverages on tables this year, there was no way the pub’s regulars were going to let the last St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Douglas Tavern be anything but a party.
"This is a whole month’s celebration," says John O’Neil, who goes up on a table and performed his yearly jig when the band picked up speed. "To come to the diddly on the 17th is quite a privilege."
No one in attendance was quite sure what the next March 17 will look like in Douglas, but for Terry McHale, this St. Patrick’s Day was about remembering back than thinking ahead.
"The last 50 years has been great."