Socially distancing on St. Patrick's Day

Normally the line in front of The Old Shillelagh is down the sidewalk by the time the owners arrive on St. Patrick's Day.

There's no line this time. Capacity limits and restrictions on distance between customers will limit how many people a bar is serving this year.

But after a year of practicing social distancing and mask-wearing, Michigan residents can now put what they've learned to the ultimate test when they venture out to celebrate today.

"For our outside part and our second and third floors, you are sitting at a table, our server will come up to you. You can have your mask off at the table," said Ian Davis, who manages the bar. "But you gotta put it back on if you want to go to the bathroom or change floors."

One would have to go back two years to recall the revelry of St. Patrick's Day in Detroit. Since then, the annual parade has been canceled twice and bars haven't seen the kind of action they rely on since.

But March 17 represents one of the industry's first big tests since getting the green light to start seating customers again. At The Old Shillelagh, they'll be open until 11 p.m. indoors and have a DJ playing music on their patio until 2 a.m. There are also some bar seats open and tables will be spaced out appropriately.

RELATED: St. Paddy's Day is back on this year, but with Covid restrictions in play

Similar rules will be enforced at other bars as well. At the Irish Tavern in Waterford, they're discouraging large groups of people and party buses, but even the owner doesn't know what to expect.

"This isn't the St. Paddy's of old, but it's not as bad as it was last year," said Doug Young, who runs the bar. "We still get to go out and socialize."