St. Patrick’s Day is Ricky Dalton’s favourite holiday, but that said, he sat four empty barstools away from the nearest patron at a bar on Water Street lunchtime Tuesday.
Decked in a plaid fedora and a green T-shirt with oversized tie, Dalton said it is what it is, and his love of celebrating the holiday brought him out despite the public health crisis known as COVID-19
Broderick’s Pub had cancelled its live entertainment, but was still serving lunch. Most of the were tables occupied, but with lots of room for social distancing around the place.
“I am not speaking for anyone else,” Dalton said, acknowledging the COVID-19 crisis.
“But it’s just about having a good time, having a laugh.”
Many patrons who were dressed for the occasion in downtown St. John’s Tuesday were afraid to have their photos taken, fearing social backlash, as happened on the weekend, where some bars were full of patrons celebrating the holiday, which traditionally is one of the Irish bars’ biggest revenue generators.
A normal year would have seen lineups out the door at lunchtime at select pubs Tuesday.
Instead, there were either empty or near-empty bars, or at some places like Bridie Molloy’s, locked doors and signs advising customers the bar was closed for precautionary reasons surrounding COVID-19.
No loud, proud boisterous Paddy’s Day crowds to see here Tuesday, folks.
“Happy St. Patrick’s Day for what that’s worth,” said one man lunchtime in Greensleeves.
Besides another man and a youth at his table, the only other occupied table was a couple, also dressed out in hats, and green clothes, the man sporting shamrocks on his cheek.
They acknowleged precautions such as closing the borders to international travellers, handwashing and social distancing advice is all valid, but they were too concerned about being the target of online wrath to be identified.
Out on Water Street, Sean Canning was on his way to do some panhandling while outfitted in his St. Patrick’s Day finery.
“Yes, I was out last night. I spent all my money. I’m broke,” he said. “The coronavirus is a crock of shit.”
At Christian’s, the usual bowls of popcorn were swapped out for individual boxes awaiting customers that stayed away through most of the lunch hour, except one lone woman eating a bowl of Irish stew.
Having gone through the eight-day shutdown of Snowmaggedon, bartender Bailey Fizgerald is concerned about the economic impact of CONVID-19, should bars close.
“I’m a little bit scared how I am going to pay my bills? I called my mom,” she said of reaching out for moral support.
It’s not just the wages, even if the bars are open, but the missed tips that bar staff salaries up and down the strip rely on. (Details of economic support for the those effected by COVID-19 closures was expected to be announced today by the federal government).
But Fitzgerald understands the situation, as well and why governments have to take certain steps.
“It’s all of Canada. Everybody is in the same position,” she said.
“The sooner they close everything down, they get everything under control.”
At Greensleeves, co-owner Jody Temple noted the bar had already last week implemented a 50 per cent capacity rule in the George Street restaurant — choosing to follow the examples of other provinces without being asked — staff were on top of sanitizing and the status is being re-evalulated constantly based on the best credible advice.
Though there was some live entertainment, it was modified Tuesday. As well, Greensleeves shut down its Torbay Road location, except for takeout and delivery.
But Greensleeves was trying to keep things going at the flagship George Street site.
Temple said he hoped something would be worked out with competitors to reschedule St. Patrick’s Day celebrations at another time when the COVID-19 crisis passes.
He noted fast food outlets were also open, but bars seemed to be taking the criticism on social media, while feedback from customers seemed to be positive..
“What really is important here is that everybody remain calm,” he said.
“This would be something we have never seen before.”
Later Tuesday, the province’s public health officials recommended all public spaces close, including bars. gyms, fitness facilities, yoga classes, cinemas, performance spaces, and arenas.
“We recommend restaurants reduce capacity by 50 per cent to allow adequate social distancing. Take out orders, deliveries, and drive thru services can continue to operate and should be encouraged if people choose to use the restaurants. Restaurants should not be offering buffet services,” chief medical officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said.
Friday evening, Temple said bar owners were discussing the situation and said things remained fluid as of Telegram deadline.