St. Patrick's Day crowd returns to The Starry Plough in Berkeley

Irish eyes were smiling at The Starry Plough on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. The longtime family-run pub hosted its annual St. Patrick’s Day event – a tradition that has been on hold for two years.

"It was definitely a trip. I never thought we’d be closed for this long," said Shahin Naima, the manager. The pub abruptly closed on this very day in 2020 because of the pandemic and the shelter-in-place.

Naima explained, "We were going to reopen a few times, but then there was another outbreak and another outbreak. And I was just like, I got my parents, their health is not that great. And I was just like let's just hold off."

He said now that many people been vaccinated, mask mandates have been lifted, and case numbers have significantly dropped, the feel good about inviting people back inside. They do still check vaccination status at the door.

"It’s a big deal," said Rose Hughes. Hughes and her husband own the bar. It has been in her family since the 1970s, when her parents owned it. Naima is their son. "It’s a lot of work. But it's a big deal and it's so great to see everybody."

Hughes said during the closure, they stayed afloat by raising $65,000 through a GoFundMe, and received help with emergency grants.

"We're just so thankful for all the support," said Hughes. "It's an emotional day, yeah. But we're good. We got through it. We've had our health challenges too and we've lost a few family members in the last two years, but we're back."

The St. Patrick’s Day celebration included a performance from the McBride Irish Dancer, and traditional Irish food like corned beef and cabbage.

"It's amazing. I was so worried that they weren't going to open up," said one bar patron.

SEE ALSO: St. Patrick's Day: The history behind the holiday in the United States

Another customer, Anna Musco said, "It’s been so sad the past two years because we drive by all the time and we see the padlock on the door." Musco said she’s thrilled to have the neighborhood staple back in business, and said it feels more like a community that a bar.

The Starry Plough will close until April 3rd. It will then reopen for regular service Sunday through Wednesday.