Beer flowed and music filled Old Shillelagh in Greektown early Friday, where partiers decked out in green to mark St. Patrick’s Day.
Band members chatted with the crowd in between classic Irish jigs. Blinking necklaces and hats lit up among the tables. There was at least one leprechaun — a man sporting a red beard and large top hat — guarding his pot of gold near the stage.
“It’s pounding on the tables, having a good time,” Cary Sherrill, 48, said of the atmosphere. “Every year we come out here. It’s a family thing.”
Sherrill, of Harrison Township said he has opened St. Patrick’s Day at Old Shillelagh for seven years. The group first was drawn to the Greektown staple after discovering it was one of the few bars at the time offering live music at dawn.
“And I think it was these guys, seriously,” Sherrill said, gesturing to the band on stage.
He was right. The band, called Black Mist, has played together more than a decade, including annual St. Patrick’s Day appearances, according to staff members.
Sherrill arrived with his group around 6:15 a.m. Friday. Did they start drinking before the sun came up?
“No, no,” he said, then paused. “Alright, yeah.”
At a nearby table, Sally Ogg soaked up the music alongside friends. The 57-year-old Tampa, Florida, resident and Michigan native planned a week visit home to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day.
When asked for an interview, Ogg had a quick request.
“We have to do a shot first,” she said.
Important tasks completed, Ogg stepped to a quiet area and said this was her first year celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Old Shillelagh.
“This is supposed to be the place to be,” she said. “We’re smiling, dancing, drinking and laughing.”
When PJ's Lager house in Corktown opened just before 9 a.m. Friday, a pair of childhood friends were first to claim their bar stools.
"St. Pat's on a Friday is a special thing," said Aaron Berkholz, 43, who ordered a shot of Jameson and a Guinness alongside Steve Pullins, 41.
"I claim to be Irish on my mom's side, even though my name is German," Berkholz continued. "But everyone claims to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day so I'm in good company."
The two hail from a tiny southwest Michigan town near Benton Harbor. Berkholz now lives in Dexter and Pullins drove up from Perrysville, Ohio.
Pullins said he's a newbie at early morning St. Patrick's Day celebrations, but jumped at the opportunity to spend the day with his childhood friend.
Meeting in historic Corktown was a bonus, they said.
"You can drink beer any day," Berkholz said. "But I think it's the camaraderie of hanging out with all the other revelers, and certainly there's no better place than Detroit to celebrate."