Pittsburgh's St. Patrick's Day festivities can begin at 7 a.m.

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This St. Patrick's Day has been more than a decade in the making.

Ten years ago, state law changed to allow most any bar or restaurant to start serving alcohol at 7 a.m. whenever St. Patrick's Day falls on a Sunday. This year marks the first time that March 17 has landed on a Sunday since 2002.

But will any of the 10,000-plus bars in the state take advantage of the extra hours?

Not many, it seems.

For most bars in Pittsburgh and across the state, Saturday, March 16, will be the big party day, and night. Even local "Irish" bars will be taking a pass on the super-early Sunday hours -- Claddagh in SouthSide Works will be opening at 11 a.m. Sunday, while Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle in the Strip will open at noon. The South Side's Piper's Pub (OK, it's Scottish), which already opens early on most Sundays for soccer matches that broadcast live on European time, will be serving beer starting at 9 a.m.

South Side's Jack's Bar -- which is known for being open 365 days a year -- will likewise take pass on opening its doors at 7 a.m.

Under elaborate state law, most weeks of the year the earliest a bar or restaurant can begin pouring booze on a Sunday is 9 a.m. -- as long as it also serves a "meal" and has acquired a special "Sunday sales permit." (Monday through Saturday, liquor sales can start at 7 a.m., no special permits necessary.)

If a bar holds a Sunday sales permit but doesn't serve food, alcoholic beverages can be sold starting at 11 a.m. -- except for bars inside of airports, which can start serving at 7 a.m. any day of the week.

But the 2003 law says that any bar or restaurant, special Sunday permit or not, can open and begin pouring at 7 a.m. when March 17 falls on a Sunday. Similarly, even those establishments without a special Sunday permit can start pouring booze at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, or if New Year's Eve falls on a Sunday.

A random survey of several Pittsburgh bars found none opening at 7 a.m. on March 17. In Philadelphia, at least one bar -- Fado's -- is serving beer and pancakes starting at 7 a.m.. A few others there are opening at 8 a.m.

As of this week, there are 10,481 licensed hotel and restaurant liquor- and beer-serving establishments statewide. None of them, at least on the restaurant end, has been clamoring for a 7 a.m. Sunday start time, according to Kevin Joyce, owner of The Carlton restaurant.

"I can't say the subject came up," he said of the statewide spring meeting of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, held at Pittsburgh's Renaissance hotel last weekend. Mr. Joyce is the past president of the association's predecessor, the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association.

Only once in his tenure does he recall any bar or restaurant having a need to open so early on a Sunday -- that was Feb. 11, 2001, when Three Rivers Stadium was demolished. The charges were detonated at 8 a.m., and for an hour or so before that, Monterey Bay Fish Grotto on Mount Washington had begun pouring drinks for a charitable fundraiser.

That was in violation of the state law saying bars and restaurants serving breakfast can begin pouring at 9 a.m. on a Sunday. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board busted the event.

Agents had "staked out the whole the whole event," Mr. Joyce said. "It was absolutely ridiculous."

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Bill Toland: btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.


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