WINDSOR, ONT. -- An annual tradition heralded by bars and restaurants as one of the biggest money-makers of the year is once again being thwarted by the pandemic.

St. Patrick’s Day 2021 will not be what many hoped for as restaurants in Windsor-Essex remained stalled in the red-zone of Ontario’s reopening framework for the fifth week in a row.

“We were hoping to get to orange this week, but it didn’t happen,” says Daniel Maggio, co-owner of O’Maggio’s Kildare House. ”That’s the way it is, and we’re just going to make due to what we can do.”

A small silver lining for the popular St. Patrick’s Day venue, given it was shut down last year, at the onset of the pandemic. This year, the establishment has a 25-person capacity on the patio and another 10 people allowed indoors.

“It’s going to be a lot tamer than usual, hopefully we do a lot of takeout,” says Sarah McKeegan, the restaurant’s general manager. “So a little different, but we’re trying new ways to still make it fun.”

The feeling is mutual at Bull and Barrel in downtown Windsor.

“It would be nice to be in the orange zone for St. Patrick’s Day but it looks like we’re stuck in the red zone,” says Andrew Corbett, the co-owner, of Bull and Barrel.

That said, the urban saloon’s massive outdoor patio allows for 22 tables of four, plus 10 people seated indoors.

The bar and restaurant is already 75 per cent booked for the big day on March 17, and will cycle through as many people as possible, under current public health restrictions.

“It still gives people an opportunity to come out and enjoy St. Patrick’s Day as much as possible,” says Corbett. “We did the two hour seating to be able to accommodate as many people as possible because there’s so much demand for the day.”

But clouding the special celebration is the reality that case rates continue to rise in Ontario, with warnings from top health officials that our behaviour in the next few weeks is critical in determining whether we see a return to normal this summer.

“Can the province move again to go back into a state of emergency, it certainly can,” says Ontario’s top doctor, Dr. David Williams. “All the decision makers, including myself would like not to have that happen.”

That is leaving restaurants with no option but to take a major financial hit and play it safe.

“For everybody’s safety, we feel like it’s a better decision to keep things low key this year and hopefully next year we can all get back here and do things right again,” says McKeegan.