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Crowds return to Highland bars for St. Patrick's Day

As coronavirus cases have finally started trending down in the Louisville area, restaurants are welcoming guests to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For 10 years, Chad Keep and his friends have made a tradition out of St. Patrick's Day.

First is an early Irish breakfast in the Highlands and then the rest of the day is spent visiting bars, including Flanagan's Ale House on Baxter Avenue.

"I'd probably give up Christmas for St. Patrick's Day," Keep said. "It's always been my favorite holiday. We all started doing it. It started out small, maybe eight or 10 of us, and it grew up to, before last year, probably 30, 40 people."

Keep wore a shamrock suit that he said was a gift from his wife as he sat with friends at a table on Flanagan's patio Wednesday morning, resuming his St. Patrick's Day tradition after staying home last year.

"Devastating, honestly," he said. "I was the mayor of St. Patrick's Day Party."

For Flanagan's Ale House owner Drew Borgmann, this is his first St. Patrick's Day celebration as the owner of this establishment. He said he bought the bar on March 3, 2020. A few days later, the coronavirus pandemic forced him and other bar owners around the nation to shut their doors.

"The world shut down and everything was closed on March 16 the day before St. Patrick's," he said.

As coronavirus cases have finally started trending down in the Louisville area, Flanagan's and other bars started welcoming guests back for the holiday, one of their biggest days of the year.

"Well, we opened at 11. I got here, there were already people dressed in green, shamrock suits head to toe," Borgmann said.

But it is not a return to normal. Bars still need to follow CDC and state health guidelines, which mandate everyone has to wear a mask when they are not seated a table. Guests also need to be spaced out and must have a seat. Local health inspectors will also be out throughout the evening making sure places are following these rules.

"We have three different indoor bars that we can do 60 percent and then also our large patio, so we're able to split everything up and the patio's been the saving grace," Borgmann said.

"I love my friends," Keep said. "I'm a very social person. I like talking. I like hanging out. And being able to do that is amazing."

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