WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Local businesses took advantage of the first busy St. Patrick's Day since the pandemic began.
It was a glimmer of hope as the Wisconsin Restaurant Association estimated about 15% of the state's restaurants closed for good due to the pandemic.
St. Patrick's Day has always been a big deal for Leff's Lucky Town in Wauwatosa. The last two years the holiday has been odd for bars and restaurants between shutting down as the pandemic took hold in 2020 and opening with restrictions and apprehension in 2021.
"To be here with sunshine on St. Patrick's day, I'm ecstatic," said Chris Leffler, owner of Leff's Lucky Town.
"It kind of feels like a relief, like there's some pressure being lifted off," said customer Ciarra Taylor.
Leffler was not shy talking about how tough the last couple of years has been.
"There were some dark days in there where there was trouble making payroll and making mortgage payments. It was extremely difficult," Leffler said.
But this is a new day, and it is usually one that can make up 10% of March's revenue.
"Really it's a celebration at the start of spring to summer. The Brewers coming on board, the NCAA tournaments, activities in the area, people outside, so it's really turning point of business coming back," Leffler said.
"It's a lot busier than last year," said server Carley Haar.
Servers Carley Haar and Sadie Keelan have worked at Leff's Lucky Town for four years. They were thrilled to see the St. Paddy's Day vibes make a comeback.
"We weren't sure about last year and then this year we're like okay things feel more normal. We've got good energy, a lot of people. It feels good to be back to 'normal,'" Keelan said.
Fittingly, Leffler felt lucky to be here, have his employees, and still be in business.