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Niall O’Hanlon’s tips for enjoying and surviving St.Paddy’s Day in Regina

Self-described as at one point, the “token Irishman” in Regina, Niall O’Hanlon knows a thing or two about St. Patrick’s Day and planning the perfect party.

Niall O'Hanlon

O’Hanlon oozes green spirit.

Since 2012, the city has seen an influx of Irish immigrants to the city making for bigger and better March 17th celebrations, and a substantial amount of Guinness consumption. This may or may not have anything to do with Mr. O’Hanlon but I’ll let you make that call.

If you live under a rock, O’Hanlon, who came to Regina in 1999 from Limerick, Ireland, is a well-known fixture in the downtown pub scene. As past manager of namesake establishment, O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub, the current co-owner of the Fat Badger and most recently, the new owner of McNally’s Tavern, which is soon to be Durty Nelly’s (named after O’Hanlon’s home pub in Ireland), throwing parties with a green flair comes simply as second nature. Niall prides himself on the fact that he has worked the last 25 years straight on the day.

Neat fact: Both O’Hanlon’s and McNally’s opened March 17, 2001. This St. Patrick’s Day will sadly be the last for McNally’s. Be sure to say goodbye. 

O’Hanlon says that over the years, Reginan’s have really begun to embrace the holiday. So I sat down with him to learn a little more.

An avid promoter of all things Irish, O’Hanlon was featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal a few years back with an article that ran describing how festive our city can be and just how much Guinness our citizens consume! Note: It’s impressive. Regina it turns out has the third largest distribution behind Toronto and Vancouver for Guinness in Canada according to O’Hanlon!

Niall O'Hanlon

In 2012, O’Hanlon, an Irish Ambassador, was honoured with a Guinness award in Toronto.

Over a few pints (of Guinness of course), he kindly shared with me how one should properly celebrate St. Paddy’s day North American style in the Queen City! So I hope you are ready to celebrate your Irish heritage, your Irish friends or just to party!

Getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day in Regina

This shouldn’t be an unplanned event, cautions O’Hanlon. Unlike this blog post that is coming out mere days before the lovely Irish holiday, he suggests taking the time to plan well ahead for how you are going to celebrate the big day.

20110630_saskatchewan_0024- Credit Eric Lindberg (1)

Make sure to visit at least one Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day. Photo Credit: Eric Lindberg Courtesy: Tourism Regina

The months prior
Scour local thrift shops for green suits. Apparel is important. O’Hanlon states you simply CANNOT leave the house without wearing green that day.

He adds even further reason for sporting the colour of the Irish, saying, “Green is a natural stain retardant. Tests have been done by me. Forever.” Now if that isn’t enough reason to wear green, I’m not sure what is. On this particular day it strikes me that there would be a great tendency for people get sloppy, so if you are well prepared, all the spilled green beer will be barely noticeable.

Also important: Find a shamrock. Pin it to your lapel, above your heart.

Weeks before
Start building up your tolerance. “Are you doing this right this year or are you doing it wrong?” Challenges O’Hanlon. “I personally try to set a new pint record every year. It’s a gift.” According to Niall, this challenge requires a scorekeeper. His personal best? 26 pints! Building up your drink tolerance weeks before hand could help ensure you don’t burn out too early.

** While Niall has built up a large tolerance for pints, he doesn’t really recommend for others to drink to oblivion. In fact, he stresses the day should be enjoyed, memorable and safe. He’s clearly invincible. And Irish. Don’t be Niall. You are not Niall.

Plan your route. Mark all the Irish pubs down on a map and plot your course.

Of course there are great celebrations to be found in nearly any bar on St. Patrick’s Day but you should make sure you plan to hit up some or at least one of the Irish pubs. They include: Shannon’s Irish Pub and Grill, McNally’s Tavern, O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub, the Knotted Thistle | Celtic Pub, and the Fat Badger. Though technically the Badger may not be Irish, the owner is, so it counts. Just put it on the list, especially if you want to see Niall challenge his record for most pints consumed on St. Patrick’s Day.

The Fat Badger Green lights

The Fat Badger gets into the Irish spirit. Be sure to stop by and grab a pint of green beer or a Guinness.

Take in the music. There are always great Irish bands playing on St. Patrick’s Day. Call ahead or look online to find out when and where the bands, especially pipe bands, are playing.

uHINT: The City of Regina Pipe Band (Who by the way, says Niall, is unrivaled in the province, is led by Iain McDonald, a huge supporter in Celtic community who has dedicated his life to bringing Celtic music to the city!) will be at the Badger later in the day. Expect traditional Irish music to be played during the day and more rambunctious Celtic later in the evening.

Work on body circulation. This may come off as surprising, but O’Hanlon swears by the ritual of a good hot tub soak as many times as possible prior to the big day.

MOST important of the tips. Plan a safe ride home way ahead of time. Do not under any circumstance bring your car to the pub!

St. Patrick’s Day
Eat up.
“Give yourself a good base, a good breakfast. It’s essential.”

Don’t forget your green. The more, the merrier.

Gather your friends and start early. 10 a.m. is a nice time to start, shares Niall.

Avoid hard alcohol early in the day. Save it for later or else you will be out by lunch.

Watch your pace. This goes hand in hand with the above point. Watch the pace your friends are drinking at and drink slower. “Don’t be the racehorse. The leading racehorse never wins. He’s the one you send home in a taxi at 5 p.m. The guy that’s loud at lunch always goes home. Don’t peak too early,” warns O’Hanlon.

Have fun, let loose, spread the Irish love and enjoy the party! According to Niall, St. Patrick’s Day in Regina is within the top three busiest days of the year for downtown pubs.

Hasan Hai and Ryan McDonald

A good excuse to pucker up. Spread the love on St. Patrick’s Day with your closest friends!

Post St. Patrick’s Day
Back into the hot tub you go. Get that circulation going and hey, say sorry to your liver while you rehash the events from the night prior.

Maybe sneak in another pint so you can stomach food. JUST ONE though.

Head for a workout. You will owe it to your body on March 18, so just make it happen.

Pray to St. Patrick you make it through the day.

Have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day!

Check out this link for some more information on what is happening in Regina on St. Patrick’s Day.

Have any survival tips to add or ways to celebrate? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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