The Pandemic Shut O’Blarney’s Down on Its Busiest Day Last Year — Now, the Pub is Ready for St. Patrick’s Day 2021


Sitting inside O’Blarney’s on Tuesday, owner Jeff Malloy recalled this time last year — regulars gathered around these tables one last time before the pandemic shuttered bars and restaurants.

Back then, Malloy and his staff felt picked on. Of all the days for harsh restrictions to come down on his Irish pub, Gov. Jay Inslee chose St. Patrick’s Day.

“We remember that day well,” he said Tuesday. “Our walk-ins were stuffed … We had already purchased everything, so that was really tough to swallow.”

In hindsight, and after a year of restrictions that strained some restaurants and squashed others, Malloy says he now recognizes that every restaurant and business in Washington has missed out on their busiest days.

O’Blarney’s was just first.

Now, as COVID-19 cases begin to fall and restrictions lift, Malloy is excited to welcome folks back in for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

It kicks off this weekend with the Olympia Highlanders Bagpipe and Drum Corps. Passersby will be able to hear the band playing outside near the cobblestone road as patrons down green beer and Guinness.

“We were just thankful to have them, and I think they were thankful to have a place,” Malloy said, noting that many bands have struggled to practice and perform during the pandemic. O’Blarney’s own event space upstairs continues to sit empty.

O’Blarney’s specializes in traditional pub favorites and Irish chow, but special to this time of year is the Irish lamb stew and Reuben rolls — corned beef and sauerkraut packaged in a crispy egg roll wrapper.

The pub is excited to see patrons decked out in green, smiling and drinking inside, even if COVID-19 restrictions still limit capacity to 25% and mandate that employees sport masks. While Malloy is grateful to invite patrons back inside, he also noted that the lack of a path forward — with no Phase 3 yet laid out by the state in its reopening plan — has also been frustrating.

When the pandemic forced restaurants across the state to get creative, O’Blarney’s survived through take-out and outdoor dining.

But it wasn’t the same, Malloy said.

Some “hearty souls” and “die hards” still huddled under the pub’s white tents to grab a beer despite freezing temperatures, but it’s the warm indoor space bubbling with voices and laughter that makes O’Blarney’s O’Blarney’s.

“This place can seem like such an empty space. Like the spirit was taken out of it … The pub was so sad, there was just no energy,” Malloy said.

And O’Blarney’s servers and bartenders, he said, were missing the friendly faces of regulars.

“They all strive on the social interaction of this job,” he said. “That’s what makes them successful, and when your interaction is with a delivery person, it’s not the same.”

And while St. Patrick’s Day is always an exciting time for the pub, 2021 has been difficult to plan for.

Last year’s sales can’t be used for comparison, it’s unclear who will show up, and the beer supply chain is still fraught. Malloy, like many others across the state, is still struggling to acquire enough kegs from suppliers stunted by the pandemic.

He never thought he’d run out of Bud Light on a Sunday, but that’s just what happened last week.

O’Blarney’s may have some serious expertise when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, but with so much uncertainty this year, Malloy says the pub just has to “wing it.”

“We just want to see the smiles on people’s faces, people enjoying themselves, getting their beer, Guinness, whiskey,” he said. “All in all, we’ve maintained a pretty positive outlook.”

More Information on O’Blarney’s Irish Pub

Address: 221 N. Tower Ave., Centralia

Phone: (360) 807-4581


Facebook: @OblarneysCentralia