Metro Atlanta pub owners worry coronavirus will wreck St. Patrick’s Day

Some metro Atlanta owners of Irish pubs are worried that coronavirus will greatly reduce profits on their busiest day of the year, St. Patrick’s Day. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Some metro Atlanta owners of Irish pubs are worried that coronavirus will greatly reduce profits on their busiest day of the year, St. Patrick’s Day. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Owners of local Irish pubs are expecting half the business they usually get on St. Patrick’s Day this year due to the coronavirus. They join businesses all over the state, country and world prioritizing public safety over profits from their busiest day of the year.

Officials in Savannah on Wednesday canceled the city's blow-out parade that usually draws hundreds of thousands of people. Boston canned its parade last Monday, the same day the Belfast City Council in Northern Ireland voted to nix its parade.

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Officials are canceling events from Dunwoody to Dublin because experts like those at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say social distancing, along with good hygiene and self-quarantining, can slow the deadly virus.

States across the country — including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio — have barred any public indoor eating or drinking.

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There were more than two dozen confirmed cases of the virus in Fulton County as of Monday.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Sunday banned gatherings of 250 people or more in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. There are reports that the mayor was thinking about reducing that limit to 50.

Jenny Goodwin, general manager of Fado Irish Pub in Midtown, said Monday she expects about half of the pub’s 238-person capacity occupied on Tuesday. On a normal St. Patrick’s Day, she said they’re filled and have a line out the door.

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To avoid situations that could spread the disease, Goodwin said they’ve made big changes, like canceling their Saturday parade. But she said they’ve also done small things like cancel the DJ so people aren’t bunched up on a dance floor. Thankfully, she said, they can freeze the corned beef and hold on to the beer.

She said they’ll stay open as long as they can because people need places like pubs to let off steam and talk about what’s bothering them.

“We still want to be here for the neighborhood,” she said.

A small crowd milled about Thos. O'Reilly's Public House off Hammond Drive in Sandy Springs, drinking and eating lunch Monday. The building had housed a Meehan's location since 2004, until Butch Elmgren opened O'Reilly's two weeks ago.

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He said they had plans for a tented festival with three bands on Saturday to raise money for pediatric cancer through the St. Baldrick Foundation. But about three-quarters of the way into setting up the tents Thursday, he said they got word from the foundation that they event was off.

So Elmgren had one of the bands play inside, but it certainly wasn’t what the owner of a new Irish pub had in mind for his first St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

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On a regular St. Patrick’s Day, he said, they would expect about 1,000 people to come through, but now Elmgren said he doesn’t know if they’ll get half of that Tuesday.

He said they’re doing all they can to keep people safe, like printing single-use menus or removing condiment caddies from the table, and they’re discussing only taking credit cards instead of notoriously dirty cash.

“At the end of the day, people have to make their own decision,” he said.

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CDC recommends ban on public gatherings of 50 or more people