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It’s the end of an era in Douglas, Ont. The village about 120 kilometres west of Ottawa is known as the Irish Capital of Canada, in no small part due to the famous St. Patrick’s Day celebrations hosted at the Douglas Tavern.

Terry and Evelyn McHale have owned the tavern on Douglas’s main street for 49 years, but after nearly five decades of parties, shindigs, and get-togethers, the couple have sold the tavern and are retiring.

“The decision to sell the tavern was pretty well forced onto us in the sense that we’re just not capable anymore,” says Terry McHale, leaning against the worn-out bar. “When they see me walking around with this cane, that pretty well says it.”

The McHales hand over the keys on June 2, but due to the pandemic there’s worry they won’t be able to have one final St. Patrick’s Day celebration or even a farewell party.

There are indications from the new, unknown buyers that they plan to convert the tavern into a warehouse.

“What they decide to do is up to them,” says McHale. “And they sort of led us to believe that it was not going to be run as a hotel in the start.”

Between the decades of hosting birthdays, reunions, and community events, the owners say it’s the everyday people they’re going to miss most in retirement.

“We had people our age, when we came (into ownership),” says Evelyn McHale, sorting through the memories. “And then they got married, and now their kids are coming in, or they’re bringing their babies from the hospital in to show us on the way home.”

The McHales don’t live far from the tavern, and even in retirement plan to pop by for any future events.

But even if there can’t be one last hurrah for the Douglas Tavern, the McHales still plan to give it an Irish send off. “Might even have a drink!”