“We’re recession proof!”—an annual saviour comes to Toronto

“We’re recession proof!”—an annual saviour comes to Toronto

Irish for a day: Patrons queue along Church St. for some St. Patrick's day fun (Photo by Davida Aronovitch) 

Several holidays have been downsized by the economic downturn: first there was Recessmas, then Valentine’s “Pay What You Can” Day. But it should come as no surprise that the holiday that’s all about beer and comfort food—two things that get a boost in bad times—is showing no signs of cramped style. Torontonians were out in full force last night for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. With all the to-do over the economy and the state of pub culture, we headed out to get the lowdown from the city’s top pint pullers. The word was unanimous: pubs were packed to the gills, and sales were way up.

The lineup at McVeigh’s New Windsor Tavern was already 25 drinkers deep before 5 p.m. The crowd of green-wearing Guinness guzzlers was as rowdy—and as tipsy—as always. “They will never lose money here because no matter how broke you are, there’s always money to drink,” says former Dubliner and McVeigh regular Bobbie Barber. McVeigh himself agreed: “Our sales are up, not down.”

He’s not the only one to notice the upswing. Tippling institution The Irish Embassy was also at capacity. This was the inaugural St. Patrick’s Day for the pub’s stylish Dublin lounge, which opened last May. Even with the new space, the queue went down the block. Patt Quinn, owner of Irish Embassy and nearby P.J. O’Brien (which was cramped but cozy), opted not to spill over into the St. Lawrence Market this year. Even so, he reported substantially increased sales. “We sold 80 kegs of Guinness products at each bar last week,” he said. “We’re recession proof!”

While it may just be the spirit of the holiday talking, Quinn claims that “Toronto is one of the most famous places for St. Patrick’s Day in the world—bigger than New York or Boston.” While we’re not entirely sure if that’s true (ever been to Montreal on March 17?), Toronto certainly does jump on the St. Paddy wagon. So what’s the final word on pub culture following this year’s homage to the patron saint? It’s staying strong, and with some key recession staples on its side, luck has nothing to do with it.