celebration

This St. Patrick’s Day, pub owners are trying to find the balance between profit and public safety.

Over thirty years ago, Seamus McCaffrey opened his first Irish pub in Phoenix, Seamus McCaffrey Irish Pub & Restaurant. It was the only place in the state with Guinness on draft. From there, McCaffrey went on to open up two more pubs throughout the Valley.

But for the first time since bringing his Celtic flare to the Valley, the three pubs that McCaffrey opened may be skipping out on their most-anticipated event of the year: St. Patrick’s Day.

Businesses throughout the country like McCaffrey’s are being tasked (and sometimes required) with finding ways to limit the spread of the coronavirus while still serving customers. The respiratory virus has been declared a state and national emergency, and health officials have urged the public to avoid crowds as much as possible. 

As part of state precautions, Gov. Doug Ducey asked that all events be limited in size to no more than 50 people. That number went down to 10 on Monday, when President Donald Trump announced new federal guidelines to limit coronavirus spread. The announcement included limiting dining in at bars and restaurants.

The President’s recommendation came one day before St. Patrick’s Day, a day that can bring up to 10,000 customers to Rosie McCaffrey’s Irish Restaurant and Pub, according to General Manager Kathleen Flick.

“This is our biggest day of the entire year. We look forward to this; we prep for this for a very long time,” Flick said. “This is our 18th St. Patrick’s Day that we’ve had at Rosie’s.”

Unless instructed to do so by the city of Phoenix, Flick said Rosie’s St. Patrick’s Day party will continue as scheduled. In addition to upping the bar’s supply of hand sanitizer, staff plans to close off the patio and outdoor seating areas. To limit crowd size, management has instructed security to monitor the number of people in the bar in an attempt to keep capacity below 50.

Flick stressed that public health and safety are a prime concern, and she has been in ongoing contact with city and health officials to ensure the pub’s celebration is in accordance with city, state, and federal guidelines. The situation is being closely monitored, Flick said, and they are taking additional precautions to reduce health risks.

However, the city stepped in Tuesday afternoon, when Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego declared a state of emergency over the spread of coronavirus. The declaration forced “immediate closure of bars & moving restaurants to delivery/take-out/drive-thru only.” The closures go into effect at 8 p.m.

Rosie’s is the third Irish pub in Phoenix started by McCaffrey, Flick’s father. The family sold the other two pubs, but both Seamus McCaffrey Irish Pub & Restaurant and The Dubliner Irish Pub have continued the St. Patrick’s Day tradition. 

The Dubliner, known to hold a weeklong celebration that ends known as the Six Days of St. Patrick’s Day, is cutting back on the final day of festivities. Two of the acts–the Irish School of Dancing and the Glendale Pipes–have canceled their performances, and the pub is encouraging getting food to-go.

Seamus’ has taken a hybrid approach, canceling the annual block party, but leaving the pub open for business as usual. Normally, Monroe Street in downtown Phoenix is blocked off to hold the crowds at their annual block party.

Last year’s St. Patrick’s Day block party in downtown Phoenix. Image courtesy Facebook.

“Due to circumstances beyond our control we have to cancel the block party,” the pub announced on Facebook. “The governor has asked for all events with 50 people or more to postpone or cancel and if we can’t do our yearly St. Paddy’s Day block party on March 17, we won’t do it at all.”

Padre Murphy’s in Glendale has similarly taken an all-or-nothing approach, and is going all-in. The West Valley Pub has been heavily criticized on social media for not adding any restrictions to keep crowd size low. The pub’s entertainment, David Sloan and the Western Bred, canceled their performance, citing health concerns.

While the Glendale event is expected to run until midnight, all three Phoenix-based pubs will close their doors by 8 p.m.