City council to decide on St. Patrick's Day changes

Savannah-Chatham police chief Michael Berkow
Savannah-Chatham police chief Michael Berkow

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The public has spoken out, now the decision on proposed changes to the Saint Patrick's Day festival in Savannah rests with Savannah City Council.

City officials tell WTOC even though it was not listed on their agenda as of 3pm today, council may vote on the proposed changes in some fashion Thursday.

The changes include banning beer vendors from selling in the squares along River Street, eliminating gates and wristbands and allowing bars and restaurants to remain open until normal closing times.

Savannah-Chatham police chief Michael Berkow worked with the Chamber of Commerce and the city on the proposed changes.

He says gating River Street created more problems, where his officers were busy keeping people from sneaking in. So, as far as eliminating gating and wristband sales and allowing bars to remain open until normal closing time, he's in favor.

Last night, a public hearing drew partiers and bar employees who want less regulation, but may not have understood the changes, as well as people with a vested interest in the festival  who are afraid changes would take money out of their pockets. This includes beer vendors,  of which there are four, who participate every year but may not be allowed to set up this year (see Public weighs in on possible St. Patrick's Day changes).

Berkow says it's a city policy decision, but the changes make sense from a law enforcement standpoint.

"The idea of 64 police officers which is what we had on River Street, going down to clear River Street and close bars, which is not a good proposition. So frankly, we are in favor of letting the bars close at their normal time and let the party dissipate out as it normally does on any Friday, Saturday night or events," Berkow said.

We spoke to city officials who say city council may make some decision Thursday on the proposed changes. It may be all, nothing or a compromise, which is most likely.

Berkow says they will police whatever is decided. No festival ordinance has been written, but council could do a straw vote to get any changes necessary underway.