As Cleveland Gears Up for St. Patrick's Day, Here's Why You Should Think Twice About Celebrating in a Bar

Kathryn Dillon

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The St. Patrick's Day parade has been canceled due to COVID-19 for the second year in a row, but that won't stop Clevelanders from celebrating the popular holiday out on the town.

With less than a week to go until Lá Fhéile Pádraig, I was surprised more local Irish pubs weren't advertising specific events or specials on their websites and touting the pandemic safety protocols they plan to enforce.

Turns out they didn't have to because a local news organization did their advertising for them.

Cleveland.com has published a comprehensive party guide listing local venues where people can gather on St. Patrick's Day, including a downtown pub crawl that runs for eight hours. Though some of the write-ups for individual establishments outline the safety measures they will be taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many don't mention any precautions at all.

I have to wonder whether this is really the smartest idea amidst a global pandemic.

I get it, I do. We're all tired of rules, regulations, and restrictions. At the one-year mark, we're sick of thinking about the virus. We're bored and lonely and full of ennui. And we desperately want to support our favorite local businesses - those that survived this long.

But perhaps those planning to spend the holiday at a restaurant, or especially in a bar, should find a different way to celebrate.

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Even if social distancing is enforced (which becomes increasingly difficult to do as intoxication levels rise), I envision lines out the door at popular establishments as people wait their turn for a seat. This will cause crowding on the sidewalks where some people will not wear masks because they believe it's unnecessary since they're outdoors.

If the current forecast holds, we'll see temperatures in the high 40s with little chance of precipitation. That will encourage more people to be out and about.

Imagine a bar on St. Patrick's Day during normal times. There's always more than one guy who's too drunk to understand the concept of personal space. In 2019, it was merely annoying. In 2021, it could be life-threatening, especially since neither of you will be masked while you're enjoying that pint of Smithwick's.

I love St. Patrick's Day as much as anyone (did you see my last name?), but this sounds like a corned-beef-and beer-laden recipe for disaster.

According to the Washington Post, only 51.3% of the prioritized population and 18.8% of the total population in the U.S. have received one dose of a vaccine as of March 11th. A mere 9.8% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Ohio is faring only marginally better than the national numbers with 10.1% of the population fully vaccinated.

Keep in mind that you can still contract COVID-19 after your first shot. GoodRX notes that "The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is only 52% effective after the first shot, while the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine studies have shown the first shot to be 80% effective."

In addition, even after the second shot, it takes time - about 14 days - for the vaccine to become fully effective.

Though we may see the light at the end of the tunnel with the increased supply of vaccines planned for April. and with more people becoming eligible to receive the vaccine, this nightmare is far from over.

The last thing we want is a Paddy's Day superspreader event or a post-holiday surge in Northeast Ohio.

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All that said, there are plenty of ways we can celebrate safely.

If we want to visit a restaurant or bar, we can call ahead to make sure we're choosing one that is committed to doing its absolute best to keep its employees and customers safe.

We can limit our gatherings to small groups - and if we can socialize outdoors, all the better. The Irish whiskey will keep us warm, right? Plus, we're Clevelanders. We're supposed to be tough.

We can support a local restaurant by ordering curbside pickup to enjoy safely at home.

We can find some Irish recipes online and get the whole family involved in making them.

We can order a St. Patrick's Day t-shirt from one of Cleveland's local t-shirt shops (such as Cleveland Clothing Company) but buy soon - they're going fast!

One local establishment, a personal favorite that is conspicuously absent from the cleveland.com listing, has gotten creative with its holiday plans.

Both locations of Parnell's Pub (downtown and Cleveland Heights) will remain closed next Wednesday. The bar's Facebook page states:

"In solidarity with our fellow pubs in Ireland, we will not be opening for St. Patrick's Day. If you go out, please be safe, and for feck's sake, wear a mask. Looking forward to seeing you all again on April 1."

But the owners of Parnell's, Declan and Elizabeth Synnott, will be getting in on the St. Patrick's Day action just the same. Send them a message on Parnell's Facebook Page to order whiskey flights through their "St. Patrick's Day in a Box" offering, for pickup at the Cleveland Heights location (12425 Cedar Road) on March 16th.

Two different flights are available for purchase - the "Classic" (featuring well-established brands like Jameson) and the "Newbie" (which consists of modern introductions like The Busker). You can also stay warm while socializing outdoors with a pub-branded winter hat.

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Upon reading my recommendations, some people will be angry. They will probably call me a control freak, or a fearmonger, or a Communist. They might accuse me of waging a war on fun.

Someone else will tell me that we don't need regulations because people can be trusted to do the right thing.

I'd love to believe that, but it simply isn't true. If people could be trusted to do the right thing, we wouldn't be mourning the deaths of close to 530,000 of our fellow Americans and more than 2.5 million people worldwide. (Washington Post)

It's human nature to push boundaries. That means if there are no boundaries, there's no limit to how far some of us will push.

At my house, we'll be practicing what I'm preaching. I'll be serving up Irish boxties along with cabbage and onions and a quickbread studded with chunks of apple and Irish cheddar. We'll drink Conway's Irish Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Company, as well as Smithwick's, Murphy's, and any other favorites my husband brings home from the store tomorrow.

A slide show of Irish imagery - mostly castles and countryside - will run in a loop on the TV in our dining room bar as our substantial St. Patrick's Day playlist (everything from bagpipes and drums to a stand-up comedian from the 60s to Irish metal band Primordial) repeats throughout the night.

Knowing we weren't going to be leaving the house, we splurged, this year, on a bottle of Red Breast 15-year-old Irish whiskey, an attempt to make the celebration a little more special during a time when very little excites us anymore.

We'll raise a glass to our friends, our family, and our community.

We'll say " Sláinte! Here's hoping we can be together soon."

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I live and write in Northeast Ohio, about everything from food to mental health, pets to relationships, music, art, and sports. My articles usually have a personal slant because I believe we as a society and as individuals grow stronger through truth-telling and connection.

Cleveland Heights, OH
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