2015-02-05 / Opinion

Rein in Parade Day

It’s never too early to think ahead. Newport’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade occurs this year on Saturday, March 14, six or so weeks from now.

But it's not too soon to consider ways to make the day more family friendly.

It doesn’t have to be a booze fest, even though history suggests otherwise, with some not-so-sobering facts.

Last year’s parade led to 49 cases in Municipal Court that involved drinking in public or open containers. Thirty-five defendants pleaded no contest to their charges, and all but one was fined $650 for their behavior. Beyond that, there were six cases involving urinating in public.

Saint Patrick didn’t become a saint because he smiled down on people who begin drinking for breakfast and are still hoisting bottoms up at 1 a.m. the next day—the hour at which state law requires most restaurants and taverns to close down.

State law, which applies to all of Rhode Island’s cities and towns, also allows many restaurants and taverns (Class B licensees that can serve hard liquor as well as beer and wine) to open as early as 6 a.m. but, that doesn’t mean that these establishments need to be open that early on Newport’s parade day, serving Irish whiskey, green beer or wine alongside their bangers, rashers, corned beef hash, Irish soda bread and black pudding.

We know of one restaurant and pub owner situated right along Newport’s parade route who prefers to start that day slowly. His doors won’t fling open, he proclaims, until about 10 a.m. And even then he will be serving breakfast—just breakfast—without any accompanying liquid refreshment stronger than orange juice.

That sounds to us like a reasonable way to get Newport’s Irish parade day off the ground. There is simply no need for anyone, Irish or otherwise, to be washing down a perfectly fine breakfast as the sun comes up on March 14 with intoxicating beverages. For those who really embrace the celebration, the day is a long one.

We issue a challenge to all restaurant and pub owners to serve responsibly during the annual festivities, and to consider waiting until 10 a.m. to serve alcohol. And perhaps City Council could help to set the tone by establishing more stringent parameters for drinking during the day of revelry.

But for those who never seem to know when enough is enough, do yourself a favor. If you’re going to be out on the town (and remember, Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17 does not actually arrive until the following Tuesday) do not—DO NOT!!—drink and drive.

The last thing anyone wants is to receive a phone call or a visit from police with news that a loved one has been arrested because of drunkeness or hit by a drunk driver.

As our restaurant friend put it so well, try taking this year’s Saint Patrick’s Day festivities S-L-O-W-L-Y.

Call us kill-joys if you must, but it's time for City Councilors and businesses to step up–before the parade steps off.

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