Proposal to expand St. Patrick’s Day festival zone, changes to permits

By WTOC Staff

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 9:35 AM EST

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The City of Savannah announced proposed changes Thursday for the 2022 St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

Currently, the changes are just proposals as they require approval by City Council.

The first change is the extension of the festival zone to Victory Drive. There will also be no wristband purchases required. In previous years, patrons had to buy wristbands from I.D. checkpoints to purchase alcohol in the festival zone.

The festival zone will only be active on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. There will not be extended festival days surrounding the holiday.

The second proposed change is the city will prohibit on-street permits in the festival zone. Meaning that all financial transactions in the festival zone must occur on the property of the business.

The last proposal is prohibiting out-of-town motor coaches from requesting permits to park within the festival zone.

“The consensus among the committee members was that the street activities after the parade have evolved into a spring break-like atmosphere, generating enormous amounts of litter, underage drinking, and other behaviors that run counter to the familial, cultural and religious aspects of the day,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

The proposed changes are only for Saint Patrick’s Day, not the days leading up to, or following the holiday. Mayor Johnson says the festival zone extension to Victory Drive is all about including more local businesses on the economic benefit the holiday provides. Unlike years past, there won’t be festival zone bracelet sales.

That means alcohol sellers would need to check IDs for every purchase. If the recommendations are approved, there also won’t be a food truck area just off Bay Street near City Hall, and vendors and concert space in the public right of way on River Street won’t be permitted. Those would have to set up on private property or outside the festival zone.

“Eventually and essentially this allows our local bars and restaurants to benefit from all food and alcohol sales,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

Mayor Johnson also explained the rationale behind not permitting out of town party buses to park in the festival zone on the holiday.

“These party buses are usually filled with already intoxicated individuals who come to Savannah only for the street party. They arrive intoxicated, they do not patronize local businesses, nor do they stay in local hotels,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

Again, all of these changes have to be approved by savannah city council. That vote is expected at the February 10th meeting.

The Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee has been in regular contact with the city for weeks, watching COVID case numbers closely to determine how permitting for the event will move forward.

Mayor Johnson acknowledged today that it takes months to plan for a parade the size of Savannah’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which includes establishing sponsors, renting equipment and working out logistics.

“For this reason I’ve told the parade committee the decision about moving forward with the parade will be made on or about February the 21st,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

Mayor Johnson also noted the parade committee revealed the parade will be a little smaller this year than in years past. The general chairman of the committee said today they have not set a limit on the number of participants, but the total could be 25 to 30 percent less than what spectators usually see.

“People may hear about that and so oh, it’s going to be a little bit scaled down, maybe we’ll just wait one more year before we come. So if the crowds are just a little smaller, and there’s still some COVID fears out there, in the crowds beyond the curbs…then maybe that crowd will be a little more spread out and smaller,” said John Fogarty, General Chairman of the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.

As far as the set up along the routes and the running of the squares in the morning before the parade, the city says that will be the same as in years past.

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