Looking at how St. Patrick’s Day affects local bars in uptown Waterloo

Photo by Yitian Cai

When the smoke clears and the empty bottles and cups have been cleaned up the St. Patrick’s Day assault upon local drinking institutions comes to a conclusion for another year.

But the important question remains: How do many of these bars and clubs prepare for such an overwhelmingly busy night? For some, such as Stark & Perri, Night School and Becky’s Apartment, St. Patrick’s Day is an event that is opened with welcome and open arms, ready for the tidal wave of green and white to cascade through the front doors of their establishments. 

This year, Stark & Perri held a 19+ “Pancake Kegger” event that started at 11:00 p.m., offering $5 pints, free pancakes and live music — featuring Ewan Doig, a local guitarist — which occurred throughout the day. Night School held their own 19+ “St. Patrick’s Day 2019” event beginning at 5:00 p.m., featuring DJ Surreal, DJ Flash and Mad Mansion.

Even Becky’s Apartment, the smallest of the three, hosted their own “Becky Goes Irish” event, which began at 2:00 p.m., offering food catered by Stark & Perri and Kentucky Bourbon & Chicken and two DJs, with the festivities lasting until 2:30 a.m. Due to the size of these spaces, it’s often difficult to arrive at a precise understanding of exactly how much busier these bars get on St. Patrick’s Day.

“I can’t say exactly how many [people] — I think throughout the course of the day we probably had around 700 bodies through the bar — obviously not at one time, and some of those are repeat visits,” said Alex Hicknell, general manager and bartender for Becky’s Apartment.

Hicknell saw an increase from last year; in part, he believes, due to the changes made in their approach to St. Patrick’s Day and what their target demographic would like to participate in.

“Last year we did the classic ‘live music and Irish theme stuff,’ and this year we went for more of a ‘Becky’s’ approach, where we had … just a couple more popular things,” Hicknell said.

“We’re kind of our own thing; I don’t want to say that we’re better than other bars, but we try to be a little bit more open to things that are going on,” Hicknell said.

“Stark’s [is] open all day, but we draw different crowds. We’re more the ‘19-20’ year-olds — obviously there’s more than that. Then, on St. Patrick’s Day, we have the adult crowd that thinks we’re still Failte, so we kind of embrace that and welcome them with open arms.”

Failte was the Irish Pub that closed in January 2017, before its rebranding into Becky’s Apartment.

As far as their approach to preparation for St. Patrick’s Day, Hicknell likes to keep it simple.

“We kind of do the same thing we do all the time, we just scale it up more. So more security, more staff — we’re lucky that we’re apart of a group of bars; so Stark & Perri, Night School and us are all under the same umbrella. We can share staff throughout the course of the day, depending on what spot is the busiest,” he said.

Though there are a number of bars and clubs in Waterloo that become busy during St. Patrick’s Day, Becky’s Apartment stands as a unique establishment focussing on openness, which Hicknell believes has benefitted the space.

“We’re kind of our own thing; I don’t want to say that we’re better than other bars, but we try to be a little bit more open to things that are going on,” Hicknell said.

“Instead of having large fights, we try to deal with everything verbally and come at it from a calm approach, which I think a lot of nightclubs don’t have. So we skirt the nightclub-restaurant line.”

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