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Posted at 3:00 PM ET, 03/17/2009

St. Patrick's Along Wilson Blvd.

By Justin Rude

It wasn't particularly crowded at Ireland's Four Courts at 11:15 this morning, but the mood was already festive. The bar, which opened at 10 a.m., started with the live music early. The lone guitarist's Irish rock covers were a little louder than the half-full dining room required, but no one was in a mood to complain. After all, they only have till 2 p.m. to finish up before the tables are cleared off and the place goes standing-room only.

The bartenders, who are operating at triple staff, say they expect a big turnout (it was already busier than the same time last year), and plan on accommodating it with heated tents and satellite bars.

Right now at the main bar, John and Mary Ellen Walsh aren't waiting for anything as extravagant as heated tents. The New York residents have made the pilgrimage down 95 every year for the past decade to spend St. Paddy's Day at the Four Courts. Donning a St. Patrick's hockey jersey (the number on the back was 17 and the nameplate read "March"), John had already settled at the bar with Mary for the long haul. When asked if he had taken root for the day, the quick reply was "I plan on staying right here pretty much till I fall down."

Up the street at Ri-Ra, things were a bit more sedate, with the noontime crowd made up mostly of lunch-break revelers. When pressed on his expectations for the day, general manager Donagh Gilhooly was less ambitious than the crew at Four Courts. "Oh, it will be full by 7 or 8 instead of 10:30," he said, "But it will probably be down from last year." As for staffing, Gilhooly had reinforced his daytime numbers but wasn't planning on bringing much more in than a typical weekend crew for the evening. If you are looking for music though, you should head over to Ri-Ra soon. There'll be a live Irish band from 3 to 6, and based on the scene now, you might be able to score a seat.

To Kim Pugh and Dale Johnson, O'Sullivan's is home. (Justin Rude/The Washington Post)

The atmosphere at O'Sullivan's just before 1 was the most welcoming yet. The banter was already in high form at the bar, where Kim Pugh and Dale Johnson plan on spending the day. "This bar is home," Kim explained, "and on St. Patrick's Day you stay home." Besides, they had already conducted their St. Paddy's pub crawl on Saturday. "Though we did spend three hours of Saturday's crawl right here," Kim allowed.

Shortly into our conversation, Dale pulled over bartender Raphaela Voseali to break down the plans for me. Later this afternoon, there'll be a $5 cover and a set menu along with a cash-only satellite bar for Guinness and car bombs on the other side of the dining room. Now, that dining room is not very large, so if you're looking for a place where you'll never be more than 12 steps away from your next pint, you may want to head to the corner of Washington and Wilson.

Finally, at 1:15 I stopped by Irish sports bar Kitty O'Shea's, where there's no cover today and pretty basic plans: "serving lots of Irish beer and whiskey," says bartender Jason. Sounds perfect. When asked who he expected to see today, bar fixture Dennis Leigh said, "Everybody. Today is the day when the amateur drinkers will be drinking with us regulars." Kitty's owner Danny McFadden, who was sitting with Dennis, was quick to point out that Dennis meant amateurs in the best possible way.

As usual, Kitty's will be the place to go for Guinness-loving fans of English soccer, as the bar will be playing the FA cup quarterfinal between Arsenal and Hull City at 3. McFadden, who said he expects the turnout to be about the same as last year, touted his no-cover policy, though he added, "we might charge you $20 if you try and leave sober." It was at that point that I began to be worried about ever getting this published, but I was glad to learn that his rule doesn't apply to drivers or journalists.

-- Justin Rude

By Justin Rude  | March 17, 2009; 3:00 PM ET
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yeah O'Sullivans upped the cover from the advertised $5 to $10... i was not happy about the impromptu change, but since my friends were already inside and I was meeting them after work, i had to scrounge around for extra $$. Stick with what you advertise folks, especially if its CASH.

Posted by: spaganya | March 19, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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