Downtown bars prepare for first-ever St. Patrick's Day amidst pandemic
LONDON, ONT. -- With St. Patrick’s Day celebrations set for Wednesday of this week, city officials are urging Londoners to keep celebrations small, outdoors and within households.
Last year on St. Patrick's Day, restaurants and bars usually frequented during the holiday were closed due to COVID-19.
But this Wednesday, eateries on Richmond Row remain open with restrictions.
On Monday at noon, downtown bars were just opening up for service with no excessive lineups or overcrowding in any direction.
City of London Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan hopes St. Patrick’s Day will be a similar sight.
"The issue will arise if people don’t follow the public health protocols and if they make unsafe decisions. I’m confident people will choose to do the right thing and we're going to avoid any unnecessary outbreaks related to St. Patrick’s Day.”
Under orange-restrict zone protocols, bars and restaurants can hold up to 50 people inside, as long as physical distancing measures allow it.
And as warmer weather blankets the city, more and more people are starting to hit the downtown.
Last Friday evening on Richmond Street, CTV News captured video of people crowding along city streets trying to enter bars.
The video shows many people not wearing masks and foregoing the recommended two metres of distance.
The general manager of McCabe’s Irish Pub & Grill, Lucas Fazakas, says he'll be placing security guards at its entrance, to try and monitor lineup sizes and overcrowding.
“McCabe’s before the pandemic would be a lineup down the street by the time we had the doors open…going from 350 to 50 (people) it’ll be a different experience in here, but we're trying to help as many people as possible, so we’re doing time limits so people are not waiting outside needlessly. Even outside people need to wear masks and have two-metre separation.”
“I think it will be busier for the most part, but I think the student community for the most part is keeping pretty safe,” says Western University student Jimmy Timberland.
“We’re going to play it by ear, there's an outbreak going on at one of the Western residences, depending on if that clears up, my house is undecided so we will see how it goes,” adds Western University student Joseph.
The London Police Service (LPS) is working with the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) and city bylaw officers to handle any St. Patrick’s Day concerns.
‘Keep it outdoors, keep it small, avoid any indoor gatherings, certainly any large indoor gatheringd. If those occur it will certainly spread COVID,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie in a media briefing on Monday.
There will be an increased presence of officers on Wednesday in and around the downtown area, just in case.
"COVID-19 is still a major concern, and we are really asking anyone who is planning to get together with friends outside their immediate household to reconsider,” says Const. Sandasha Bough with LPS.