Bars find safe ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — At this time last year, bars were preparing for their biggest day of the year: St. Patrick’s Day.

Before the holiday rolled around last year, COVID-19 shut down schools, halted sports and canceled events.

Flanagan’s Irish Pub in downtown Grand Rapids was one of those bars preparing for the St. Patrick’s Day crowd.

“We had a basement full of food, full of Guinness, full of Jameson and all of a sudden we are closed and stuck with thousands of dollars of product,” said Flanagan’s general manager Ben Stoneman of March 2020.

March 2020 marked the start of the pandemic. A year full of closures and hardships would follow for many. One year later, large events like Irish on Ionia are still postponed for a later time.

A Grand Rapids bar announces to-go drinks for St. Patrick’s Day. (March 11, 2021)

Local bars say they’re doing what they can in the meantime.

“It’s a lot different. There’s no big street fair like there always is. So that’s going to send a lot of people to a lot of different places,” Stoneman said.

Flanagan’s is blocking off a portion of Pearl Street in front of their business for an indoor and outdoor celebration. The business will have eight bands performing throughout the day. Guests will have to purchase tickets for 2-hour time slots and will have to remain at their seats.

Garage Bar on Ottawa Avenue will be closing down a block of the street so customers have more room to social distance. The restaurant will also have live music throughout the day.

While they say they plan to keep the event small, Garage Bar’s event did require a permit from the city.

Outside Garage Bar in Grand Rapids on March 11, 2021.

Quinn and Tuitte’s, an Irish Pub on the city’s northeast side, says they’ll be open but expect smaller crowds because of capacity limits. They are not hosting an official event.

The Grand Rapids Police Department says they’re not staffing any St. Patrick’s Day events, but if events become too big, they will respond. GRPD says they will take an “education over enforcement” stance.

Local business owners say they plan to stand firm on capacity limits and masks to protect customers’ and employees’ health.

“COVID protocols are still in place. You’ll be asked nicely once and after that, outdoors. We want to avoid people crowding up,” Stoneman said.

Flanagan’s is selling tickets for their event online. They say there will also be tickets available on site Saturday. Garage Bar has more information regarding their event on Facebook. The events are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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