Back in the late 1980’s, Niall O’Hanlon was only 14 years-old and he lived in Limerick, Ireland. The only alcohol he had seen was the single glass of whiskey his father poured to celebrate his wedding anniversary, each year on December 31. Little did he know that decades later he would help pour record numbers of Guinness pints halfway across the world.
The temperature in Ireland at Christmas is about 4 C. So, it didn’t seem cruel when O’Hanlon’s father dropped him off outside the oldest bar in Ireland -- Durty Nelly’s pub. Fourteen-year-old O’Hanlon knew nothing about the bar industry. However, his father did the accounting for the pub, and he knew they were looking for help over the holiday season.
“I was a cellar bartender, which involved me being in a pit with one piece of wood and some angry Irish guy shouting at me: ‘Guinness seven! Hey! Guinness seven!’” shouts O’Hanlon, holding back laughter. “That was pretty much where it started.”
He arrived in Regina in 1999, and continued with his passion for pubs and Guinness beer.
He was reluctant to share how much Guinness he orders for St. Patrick’s day. However, he said Regina has the third largest distribution of Guinness in Canada, behind Toronto and Vancouver.
For example, in 2012, O’Hanlons pub sold just under 5,000 pints of Guinness on March 17. The sales gained them the title of most Guinness sold in Canada in one day.
One pint of Guinness sells for about $8.50. If you do the math, that is over $42,000 in sales.
Durty Nelly’s is one of O’Hanlon’s most recent bar ventures. The tavern is set to celebrate its first official St. Patrick’s Day, this year. He hopes pint sales stay strong under the roof of Regina’s newest Irish pub.
In Ireland, Durty Nelly’s is 1600-era thatched-roof cottage with lanterns and sawdust-covered floors. The building was once a bar for castle guards. When you step into the Regina location, you can sense where O’Hanlon found his decorative influence: the dim-lit room is lined with copper chandeliers and the floors are paved in what looks to be old brick.
O’Hanlon’s bar is independent of the Durty Nelly’s franchise in Ireland.
“When I visited back home, I apologized and offered any money for the name, but, they literally just put me to work bartending for four hours, and that was it,” O’Hanlon said.
Leasa Gibbons, manager of community partnership at the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District (RDBID), describes O’Hanlon’s impact on the local business sector as “kind hearted.”
“He’s really changed the way we look at Guinness, certainly in downtown, and really made St. Patrick’s day a thing and a place to be,” she said. “
Since O’Hanlon started in 1999, she said he’s created “friendly competition” among downtown bars and “he’s not afraid to take it to the National level.”
In 2012, O’Hanlon was featured on the cover of The Wall Street Journal, and received a Guinness award for his pint-pouring record at O’Hanlons on Scarth Street.
O’Hanlon said he doesn’t see consumption of stout beers going down this year.
Saint Patrick’s Day is a statutory holiday in Ireland, and Newfoundland. However, O’Hanlon says it might as well be celebrated across Canada.
“Honestly, I don’t want to sound like a (jerk) but St. Patrick’s Day is my Christmas,” he said.
You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Durty Nelly’s, but O’Hanlon recommends enjoying a few Guinness followed by a safe ride home.