Yesterday, Independent Restaurant Concepts co-owner Josh Johnston, who runs Paddy’s Bar and Grill among other bars and restaurants, was cautiously optimistic about the St. Patrick’s Day festivities at the bar. Despite worries about COVID-19, ticket sales were high, and a record number of sponsors were eager to fly in and join the party. Likewise, Kells Irish Pub’s nearly week-long series of dances, boxing matches, beer tents, and parties was scheduled to run as it has for years, and the Shamrock Run was seeing only a minor drop in registration. McMenamins had more than a dozen parties planned across the state, with no plans to cancel any of them.
Late Wednesday night, Gov. Kate Brown announced a temporary ban on gatherings of over 250 people in an effort to curb transmission of the virus. It’s nearly identical to Washington State’s executive order. Effective immediately, the ban is set for at least four weeks.
These kinds of limits could dramatically hit Portland’s Irish bars on one of their most crucial days of business, St. Patrick’s Day, and businesses have already had to adjust to the change. Following the announcement, Kells announced that it would alter plans for its popular Irish festival, canceling the main event but offering live music and Irish dancers within their pubs.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are complying with new state guidelines affecting large gatherings, and have canceled this year’s Kells Irish Festival. We will not be offering any activities in our Festival Tent — this includes live music, family day, and The Smoker, which will be postponed until a future date... We will monitor the number of attendees in our pubs at any given time. While we are very disappointed that we are unable to hold our 29th annual event, we know this is the right decision for the health and safety of our guests and the community as a whole.
Paddy’s is taking a similar course — the day-of festivities, which normally serve thousands, have been dramatically limited to comply with the governor’s orders, with the majority of the 250-maximum guests being sponsors who already have tickets. The tented area will shrink accordingly, but the bar still plans on having live music and entertainment on the holiday, as well as weekend-long promotions and specials. Beyond concerns for the business and its staff, Johnston says the team doesn’t want to let the Children’s Cancer Association — the event’s beneficiary — down, either.
So far, neither McMenamins nor Irish bar T.C. O’Leary’s have responded to inquiries about their festivities.