Paddy McSwiggins

By Dawn Booth | Jan 28, 2019 | Fort McMurray - Thickwood

Local Irish pub looks to March 2019 for reopening

Paddy McSwiggins – Celtic Ales & Eatery – has been the go-to spot for hundreds of locals to take in the taste of Ireland in Fort McMurray.

The pub first opened two decades ago and brought many residents in with their Irish-inspired menu items. The Irish Fry Up and Paddy’s Pick, along with the delicious hot beverages of Dani’s Delight and the traditional Coffee Baileys are just a few of guests featured favourites.

In the evenings, local musicians and bands like Derina Harvey Band, Friends of Jack, Shantelle Davidson, Danny Tulk and Dave Martin regularly frequented its mainstage.

As for St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Paddy’s was the local place to be to recognize and honour the secular celebration of Irish culture.

It’s co-owned by Gareth Norris, who emigrated with his parents from the UK in the 1980s, and his partner Trish Van Der Haegen. The pub is also a popular spot with Irish and UK ex-pats.

Today, when searching ‘Paddy McSwiggins’ on Google, people will quickly see “Permanently closed” written in red text on their screens.

However, recent local headlines explain the long-established Irish pub is making a comeback after its doors have remained closed since Fort McMurray’s 2016 wildfire disaster.

In the Fort McMurray Today’s article published on December 11, 2018, it states a local contractor is spearheading the renovations to help pub owners put Paddy’s back on the map.

“It was the normal Fort Mac stuff. One personal hears something, and everyone wants to help,” the local contractor Billy Martin told the Today. “It’s unbelievable how fast you can pool together people to build a restaurant.”

According to the article, Norris was still battling with his insurance company to open the Thickwood bar and “that dispute is currently before the courts.”

While renovations are currently underway, the new design concept was recently finalized and will feature Irish Snugs. An Irish Snug is a traditional, small screened-off room attached to a bar.

According to an article featured on Mental Floss, Ireland’s drinking establishments were, once, almost exclusive to the domain of men; and no respectable woman could - or would - be seen drinking inside.

“Up until the 1960s and 1970s, women were largely not seen drinking in a public tavern. Even women who owned bars weren’t keen on having a female presence there,” as the article states. “But over time, as it became more socially acceptable for women to head to the bar for a pint, snugs began to disappear.”

Today, Irish Snugs can be found in some historic bars across the globe including the Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast, which is a historic landmark in Ireland built in 1826. Several snugs will be added to the concept as part of the rebuild.

To help with the support of Paddy’s rebuild, the owners have purchased a new swag of t-shirts ($25), hats ($30) and hoodies ($50) to sell. The merchandise features the pub’s logo on the front with the phrase: “We are Paddy’s” on the back.

Purchases for the rebuild promotion can be made at the following local businesses who are helping support the cause: Sweets Meats Sandwich Bar, Swag – Fort McMurray, Cloverdale Paint and Egyptian Gold Tanning Salon.

For more information and rebuild updates, check out the Paddy McSwiggins Facebook page.

Headshot of blog admin

Dawn Booth is a freelance journalist and owner of Media Booth, a marketing and communications business in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Learn more at