St. Patrick's Day: Milwaukee celebrates, lighter COVID restrictions

On St. Patrick's Day two years ago, bars and restaurants were shut down. This year, though, signifies a change – shifting COVID-19 pandemic blues to Irish green.

FOX6 News on Thursday spotted crowds decked out in green again with no rules about masks, distancing or capacity.

"I’m Irish today," said bar patron Mona Stoeve. "We missed the past two years because of the pandemic, so it was extra exciting just to get back out, get back to normal."

SIGN UP TODAY: Get daily headlines, breaking news emails from FOX6 News

You don't have to be Irish to feel lucky this St. Patrick's Day.

"I’m not Irish, but they let me hang out with them, so that’s all good," Milwaukee resident Todd Jacobson said. "I just like the Irish people. They’re fun to talk to. I like watching the Irish dancers. You meet the most interesting people."

St. Patrick's Day in Milwaukee

O'Lydia's opened at 6 a.m. Thursday, and customers poured in not long after to grab a table – jumping at the chance to celebrate.

"It fills up quick, and it’s good to get real estate," said Stoeve.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get breaking news alerts in the FOX6 News app for iOS or Android.

"Just fun to see all the different people and wear a crazy hat," said bar patron Feliks Zajaczkowski.

On St. Patrick's Day a year ago, before COVID-19 vaccines were widespread, bars and restaurants took more COVID-19 precautions – including limited indoor capacity because of restrictions.

Gov. Tony Evers ordered all bars and restaurants to close there doors on March 17, 2020. Ryan Steny, co-owner of Steny's, remembers it well.

Steny's Tavern & Grill

"This morning was an emotional morning for me. It was two years since they shut us down," Steny said. "To be open two years later, have March Madness here in Milwaukee on St Patrick’s Day, the Bucks are doing well, the Brewers are starting. It's just a good morning to kind of get back to normal."

Steny is one of many counting their blessings this holiday.

"St. Patrick’s Day every year is our biggest day of the year," said O'Lydia's co-owner Rick Sackett. "Seeing it busy like today and the bands and stuff almost makes you forget about the in-between time, it just feels like pre-pandemic which is a really good feeling."

Sackett said they were lucky enough to get creative and keep enough money coming in to keep their staff employed, and they are happy to be getting closer to normal now.

NCAA Tournament: How to get to Fiserv Forum

Plan ahead: That's the message as we head into a busy weekend for Fiserv Forum.

Milwaukee Boys & Girls Clubs get $17M from MacKenzie Scott

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee on Thursday announced a gift of $17 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Open Record: Overruled

What happens when a judge gets involved in a ruling that affects the WIAA basketball playoffs.