St. Patrick’s Day festival changes aim to curb alcohol overconsumption

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 6:47 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Tens of thousands of people from all over the country and world will head to the Hostess City for the return of the St. Patrick’s Day parade and festival.

The Savannah mayor says this year, the city has a chance to bring back a better version of the festival. One that’s safer, more regulated, and more enjoyable for locals.

“We know over the years that it has become something that none of us really wanted it to become. That it was associated rather than having a great time, it was a place to really get smash-faced. And that’s just not the brand we want for our city,” Mayor Van Johnsons aid.

Last month, council approved three key changes related to alcohol consumption in the festival zone. First, they got rid of festival wristbands. That means you’ll have to show your ID every single time you buy a drink.

They also banned most on-street permits. Meaning, vendors can no longer set-up temporary bars along the street.

And the council banned parking permits for out-of-town party buses.

“People are drunk when they leave, they’re drinking on the bus, they’re drunk when they get here. They’re not spending any money here locally. And then they go back. And so, again, we want to be able to create an opportunity where our local businesses are able to win,” Mayor Johnson said.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations also place a heavy burden on Savannah Police.

“As always, Savannah police is going to have all hands-on-deck for the St. Patrick’s Day events,” Sgt. Jason Pagliaro said.

Arrests skyrocket during Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day festival. Charges range from DUIs to public intoxication.

On a normal pre-pandemic weekend, just over 100 people were booked into the Chatham County Jail.

But during the 2017 festival, that number jumped to 238.And, more than 300 people were arrested and booked in 2018 and again in 2019 - the last two festivals before the pandemic hit.

Still, Savannah Police insist the festival is a safe place to visit this year.

“We’ll have enough presence in the area that if there’s something going on, we’ll be able to quickly respond to it,” Sgt. Pagliaro said.

Mayor Johnson says - even with the changes the city’s made - local bars and restaurants must be vigilant about how much alcohol they serve and who they serve it to.

He also has a message, for out-of-town visitors.

“We want people to recognize that this is our city. It’s our city on the 16th of March, and it’s our city on the 18th of March. So, don’t trash our city,” Mayor Johnson said.

Savannah Police will also have their ABC Unit, Alcoholic Beverage Control, out looking for overconsumption and underage drinking.

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