PORTLAND – The sky was still black, traffic lights were still in flashing mode rather than stop-and-go, and nocturnal creatures could still be glimpsed scurrying through the streets.

But a line of people was already forming at the doors of Brian Boru Public House, an Irish bar on Center Street, early Sunday.

By 5:43 a.m., Bruce Ruzzoli of Randolph was at the head of the line waiting for the 6 a.m. St. Patrick’s Day opening. By 6:01 a.m., Ruzzoli was at the bar and sipping a Guinness. “It goes with everything,” he said.

Early St. Patrick’s Day revelers were able to wash down their eggs with a brew, thanks to last-minute legislation that lifted the ban on alcohol sales before 9 a.m. Sunday. The legislation allows alcohol sales beginning at 6 a.m. on a Sunday only on St. Patrick’s Day. The next time St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday will be in 2019.

Late last week the early opening, which became ensnared in a political standoff over Gov. Paul LePage’s push to pay $484 million in overdue Medicaid payments to Maine hospitals, was far from certain. But in the final hours the Legislature and LePage managed to set aside their wrangling.

On Thursday, the measure received near-unanimous support in both the state House and Senate. It was signed into law later that day by LePage, sporting a grin and a shimmering green leprechaun’s hat.

Laurence Kelly, co-owner of Brian Boru, said the legislation was a boost for businesses like his.

“It’s three hours of state tax revenue and it’s huge for us,” Kelly said.

By 6:30 a.m., it was standing-room only. Waitstaff carried stacks of platters piled high with rashers, black and white pudding and bangers and mash.

The Rev. James King of the Church of the Holy Spirit on Congress Street, an International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, prepared to deliver a little story to the crowd. He said it didn’t matter that he isn’t Roman Catholic because back in St. Patrick’s day there was only one church.

Daniel Steele, co-owner, said the early morning crowd tends to be more subdued, compared to those who show up later in the day.

“In the morning is when you get families who will eat breakfast and maybe have a pint and head out,” Steele said.

Portland roommates Kate Law, Kate Volz and Michaela Denoncourt said standing in line waiting for Brian Boru to open on St. Patrick’s Day is like waking up early on Christmas.

“It’s a tradition,” Law said.

The three said they would hang out at the pub for a while and then probably go home for a nap.

“Then more of this,” Volz said.

Friends Sean Slaughter and Mike Solak, both of Portland, said they hadn’t bothered to go to bed. They spent Saturday night at a show at Geno’s Rock Club, moved on to an after-show party, and then breakfast at Becky’s Diner at 4 a.m. and over to Brian Boru on a whim.

“After this, a second brunch,” Slaughter said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com