This Sunday, March 12, the South Side Irish Parade makes its return with some changes that should cut down on the rowdiness. The parade has pushed back its roll time to 11 a.m.—giving attendees less time to pregame in the morning—and has beefed up security. The plan is to put extra emphasis on keeping anyone who’s intoxicated or carrying alcohol away from the parade route.
It’s been nearly three years since the South Side Irish Parade invaded the streets of Chicago's Beverly neighborhood. After the 2009 parade (a boozy 300,000 person gathering that led to 54 arrests), the city decided that it had gotten out of hand and would be put on hiatus for following years.
Hopefully, these changes will bring about a smoother, less belligerent experience for parade-goers and organizers alike.
“I’ve worked every parade since 1990,” said Bernard Callaghan, owner of Keegan’s Pub (10618 Western Ave.). “There were some problems, but I think they’ve tightened up security and it’s going to be bigger than ever.”
Just because you can’t get sloshed street-side along the parade route this year, there are still plenty of pubs on Western Ave., like Callaghan’s bar, for tipping back a few beers. Callaghan insists the bars along the parade route didn’t fuel the unruly behavior in years past.
“Put it like this: there are 10 bars on Western Avenue,” he explained. “If there are 500 people in each bar, that’s only 5,000 people out of the 300,000 that go to the parade. We’re able to police ourselves.”
Laura Bisiules, a bartender at nearby Wrongs Tap (10014 S. Western Ave.), also believes that the bar crowd hasn't been the problem in previous years.
"I think the underage drinking was what was really getting out of hand," she said. "If they can cut down on that, they'll be fine."
Wrongs and Keegan's are both upping their security and number of door staffers this Sunday. Despite the extra measures that need to be taken, Callaghan and Bisiules are still supporters of the parade.
“It’s a great even for the neighborhood and really showcases it," said Callaghan. "I’ve seen people come from New York, Boston and Philadelphia just to go to the parade.”
With an expected high of 64 degrees on Sunday, the Beverly neighborhood should have no problem turning out big numbers for the parade’s revival.