Gregory de la Haba, the co-owner and operator of McSorley's Old Ale House, said his primary focus this St. Patrick’s Day was to follow the rules.

"The last thing I wanted was for the city to come down and give us any shit about anything, you know?" de la Haba told Gothamist. "We don’t want to be held up as an example as a superspreader or something."

To keep things in line, the 167-year-old bar had two bouncers to enforce a 50-person capacity limit; tables were separated by plastic barriers; people on line had to keep six feet apart; and de la Haba told patrons who’d emailed about reservations not to come in.

"I wanted to make sure we were not a mob scene at McSorley’s," he said. "Everybody who emailed me online, I told them not to come in. I said, can you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with us on Thursday or Friday or Saturday?"

That said, he was pleased with the showing yesterday.

"It was fucking beautiful," he said. "Honestly, I felt alive again. And it was our busiest day in more than a year."

McSorley's Old Ale House on St. Pat's Day 2021

McSorley's Old Ale House on St. Patrick's Day 2021

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McSorley's Old Ale House on St. Patrick's Day 2021
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

The exuberance around this St. Patrick’s Day — however cautious people may (or may not) have been — was a stark contrast to last March, when Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered bars to switch to take-out-only the day before what, for many bars, is their biggest sales day of the year.

Kegs went to waste. Some bars began delivering six packs, or selling enclosed containers to-go. And soon, bars that didn’t also sell food started closing for good.

Though McSorley's does offer corned beef alongside its two varieties of ale, business nonetheless dried up.

"We figured [last St. Patrick’s Day] would be busy for takeout because of all the Irish people in town who come for the parade and whatnot," said de la Haba. "Only 11 people showed up that day — four of them were journalists, three were neighbors, and four were foreigners who were stuck in New York."

McSorley’s started giving away the 500 pounds of corned beef it had ordered for last year's holiday, de la Haba said, and they closed for an extended period four days after St. Patrick’s Day as the East Village became a ghost town. (They began to reopen at the end of May 2020 with to-go orders.)

Now, de la Haba said that because so many bars have gone out of business for good while others are just coming back to life, the supply chain is out of whack.

"There’s almost like a shortage of beer right now, because everyone’s cutting back," said de la Haba. "Nobody’s sure how busy they’re going to be."

But yesterday, he said, was a sign of good things to come.

"This past week alone, I’ve seen some of my older customers that I haven’t seen in a solid year return to the bar because they got vaccinated," he said. "All my staff have gotten vaccinated. I saw a good dozen customers of mine who I haven’t seen in a year. That’s a tell-tale sign that things are going to get better. Tomorrow supposedly we’re going to be allowed 50% occupancy. And I think in another month or two, we’ll be at 75%."