Every year in downtown Austin, the St. Patrick's Day celebrations start early in the morning at a favorite Irish pub and last through the day, spilling out onto the blocked off street. It’s the biggest, longest-standing St. Patrick’s Day event in Austin and it’s all about celebrating the holiday the real way — with quality and respect.
For the past 18 years, family and friends have made memories on St. Patrick’s Day with live music, authentic street fare — like shepherd's pie — and plenty of drinks. And for every one of those years, Eric Rossol has been behind the scenes (and behind the bar) helping make those memories happen.
“We are St. Paddy’s Day in Austin,” says Rossol, “What we do … we’re really good at it.” After 18 St. Patrick’s Day’s, Rossol says it’s hard to tell the holidays apart from each other — the years have all kind of blurred into each other. Part of that blurring might be because there’s the same familiar faces every year. Even in a crowd of 1,000 people, Rossol always notices the large amount of regulars who come out to celebrate together. And it’s not just bar patrons that are part of the tradition. It’s a community event, he stresses. “All the police guys come down and the chief comes to hang out for awhile, the mayor usually comes by. It’s the same cops every year,” he says.
Rossol sees it all. “The crowd gets younger as the night progresses,” he laughs. It's St. Patrick’s Day done right, with taste and quality in mind. There’s no green beer — “we’ll never do that ... we try to stick to as purely as Irish as possible. You know, the good stuff,” he says, like a shot of Jameson shared with friends.
Iconic Austin bartender Billy Hankey is imagining a much lower key — but just as authentic — St. Patrick’s. It may be new, but the bar keeps the musical, neighborhood dive bar spirit intact.
“It’s definitely kind of formed into very much a neighborhood bar, with a lot of the people coming in from the neighborhood on a daily basis, along with a lot of service industry people ... just coming in, relaxing and having a good time,” says Hankey, who lives in the neighborhood himself.
And as for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, that’s what he hopes the vibe will be on that day too. “Just a bar,” says Hankey, a place to “come in and have a drink and enjoy the people around you.”
He’s not one for green beer or plastic beads. Years ago before he started working the holiday, he would celebrate casually, at his usual watering holes. “I would have a few drinks, sit around and talk and hang out.”
This year, he’s glad to give his neighborhood a chance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by doing just that: sitting around, drinking, and, “I dunno, maybe playing some Dubliners,” he says.