Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade Pub Scene: Beat the Crowds

How to Beat Irish Pub Crowds the Day of the Parade

How to beat Montreal St. Patrick's Day crowds and actually score a seat in one of the city's top Irish pubs.
Photo by Flickr user caribb (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade Pub Scene: Beat the Crowds

So you've just taken in the Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade and what you really want now is a pint. A pint in a joint with wood paneling, warm staff and pub grub. But it's going to take more than the luck of the Irish to find room in one of Montreal's Irish pubs post-parade. In fact, don't count on anything less than a lineup by 1 p.m. in the downtown area, one hour after the parade usually starts.*

So what does a reveler have to do to get a nice spot in a nice pub on the day of Montreal's St. Paddy's parade? I asked local Irish pub staffers for the scoop.

  • Tip #1: Get there early. Real early.
    • As in noon. "But noon is exactly when the Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade starts," you say. Go outside, take a quick peek at the parade if you absolutely insists, but come back as soon as possible if you really want that seat. Insiders concur noon is the magic number. If you wait until 12:30 p.m., you might not get a seat. Get there by 1 p.m. and you'll be just in time for a lineup sprawling past the front door. Unfortunately, you can't have it all on parade day. Either do Irish breakfast early in the morning followed by watching the entire parade and then go home OR do Irish breakfast, peek at the parade, but run back to claim your personal pub seat du jour. It's one or the other. Choose and make your peace.


    • Tip #2: Sit Strategically
      • Want to be in the thick of the action and never have a dry moment? Sit at the bar. Always the bar. But not just anywhere. Sit at the end of the bar. Not in the middle. At the end, or on a corner. Why? Crowds tend to hover towards the center part of the bar to buy drinks, which leads to more difficulty getting the bartender's attention.


    • Tip #3: Tip!
      • Make friends with the bartender. Step one involves giving him or her a great tip on the first drink. That, in combination with choosing a plum spot at the end of the bar courtesy of getting there early --and when you get there early, there's more time to chat and bond with the bartender before the masses arrive-- means you won't be forgotten in the St. Paddy's crowd. Said bartender might even spot your seat for you during bathroom runs. If you're lucky.

    *According to all of the Irish pub staffers consulted for this piece, the 1 p.m. adage is true. According to my own experience, this is true. But according to an Irish friend of mine who shall remain nameless, this is not true. He claims he had no trouble getting into Hurley's at 2 p.m. on the day of St. Paddy's Parade in 2006. And he's not one to stretch the truth, so the Irishman says.