St. Patrick's Day

Old Triangle bar charges for water on St. Paddy’s Day

That’ll be $7 for the pint and $3 for the water at Irish bar

Halifax spring water was not flowing at The Old Triangle Thursday.
Halifax spring water was not flowing at The Old Triangle Thursday.   Adina Bresge

Call it the luck of the Irish, but on the day celebrating the nation’s patron saint, one of the Maritimes’ premier Celtic pubs raised the price of its most plentiful beverage: water.

On St. Patrick’s Day, The Old Triangle Alehouse substituted its complementary tap water for $3 bottles of Aquafina.

St. Patrick’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for the Irish alehouse. The whole bar is decked out in green, with a celtic band and a line of people waiting to get in.

The festivities begin at 7 a.m. and shut down at 2 a.m. the next day. Hundreds of people go through the bar.

“We can’t have people just drinking water,” waitress Louanne Dal Ballo said. “We don’t charge a cover, and you’re getting to hear amazing music for nothing. You do have to contribute somehow.”

Dal Ballo says if a customer is ill, she would never deny that person water. She evaluates it on a person-by-person basis.

There are a handful of bars in Halifax that only serve bottled water, but 364 days a year, The Old Triangle is not one of them. The sudden surcharge came as a surprise to some customers.

“I felt like the way they told me … was almost like they were apologetic to even say it,” Kelly MacDonald said. “My father looked at me and said, ‘Fill that bottle up in the bathroom.’”

As a whiskey drinker, MacDonald says aquatic accompaniment is a must for her. She abides by a one-to-one ratio: a glass of water for every alcoholic drink.

This rule is in line with Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse guidelines, which recommend alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Severe dehydration is a symptom of alcohol poisoning, which can lead to seizures, brain damage and even death.

The Irish alehouse was a sea of green in honour of the nation's patron saint.
The Irish alehouse was a sea of green Thursday in honour of the nation’s patron saint.   Michelle Pressé

General manager Brian Doherty says that charging for water on St. Patrick’s Day has been the pub’s policy for at least the past three years.

“If they are drinking beer, they’re usually not too worried about a $2, $3 bottle of water,” he said.

At around 8 p.m., Doherty estimates that the bar had sold around five cases, or 120 bottles of water, with hours of partying still to go.

“Pouring a glass of water takes more time than you might think,” Doherty said. “This is just an easier process for us.”

Not all St. Paddy’s Day revellers had to dig up change for a bottle. Customers sitting at the bar, where Doherty was working, took their water in a glass.

Service Nova Scotia does not regulate the sale of water in bars or other licensed establishments. “That would be a business decision by the operator,” a media relations adviser said.

After all shamrocks, leprechaun hats and four leaf clovers are put away, things will go back to normal at The Old Triangle: the stout will be strong, and the water will be free.

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