'Party at home': Restaurant closings dampen St. Patrick's Day revelry

St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Michigan will be smaller affairs as restaurants and bars close their dining rooms later Monday on orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Carryout and delivery orders are still allowed, and officials in Metro Detroit counties say home celebrations are exactly what are needed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

More: Restaurants ordered to close dining rooms by 3 p.m.

Bill Nowling, a spokesman for Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, said Monday that the county has been evaluating a variety of restrictions and fully supports Whitmer’s move to restrict in-house services at Michigan restaurants and bars.

The need, he said, “to encourage people to make good decisions with their time,” was acute with St. Patrick’s Day looming. 

“If you want to have St. Patrick’s Day festivities, you’re best bet is to stop by the store, stock up and do that at home,” he said. “There will be other St. Patrick’s Days.”

A sign for "carryout only" at the Original Pancake House, Monday, March 16, 2020, in Woodmere Village, Ohio. All bars and restaurants in Ohio will be closed until further notice, said Gov. Mike DeWine. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's similar order goes into effect at 3 p.m.

Hours before Whitmer ordered all restaurants in the state to close their dining rooms, a Waterford Township eatery was drawing praise for its decision to close on one of its busiest days of the year.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter praised Kennedy’s Irish Pub after it announced over the weekend it would close on St. Patrick’s Day in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Irish pub annually draws crowds for its Irish food, music and, yes, beer. It has become so popular that large tents have been erected in the parking lot to handle the overflow. This year its best to stay home, say officials.

The Oakland County executive encouraged alternatives for celebrations of all sorts.

“I sympathize with businesses like Kennedy’s, that will take a big hit but it is the right thing to do,” said Coulter. “I’m Irish and I get it. I enjoy St. Patrick’s Day every year but this year, we have to take things seriously. Maybe we can postpone the same event until this summer or later this year when things hopefully are under control.”

Coulter said he is considering making additional statements encouraging self-distancing later today.

“Today is my birthday,” said Coulter. “We had a small party at home yesterday with family. That is how we need to handle this (virus). Celebrate life and enjoy and stay in contact with friends but avoid crowd situations where it may exist.”

Nowling said the state is being cautious in its measures but stressed that the goal isn’t to hurt businesses. Patrons are encouraged, he said, to take advantage of the curbside and takeout services that will remain in place amid the restrictions.

“People don’t have to change their dining out decisions, they just have to change their dining out behavior. Instead of going to the restaurant, sitting down and having dinner, they could order food and sit down (at home) and have dinner,” he said.

“There’s going to be an impact to the services and these businesses without a doubt but that’s the nature of the emergency we’re in right now. There’s going to be a ton of unintended consequences that we’ll have to work through and we will. Hopefully, the faster we contain this spread and flatten the curve, the sooner we can lift some of these restrictions so we can get back to the normal course of business.”

Nowling said the county has been in discussions throughout the weekend over options to help mitigate community spread of the virus. Among its plans, the county intends to ramp up its messaging for residents on how to best protect themselves.

County leadership, he said, will be having discussions Monday with the sheriff’s office and health division on managing the closures.

“But the governor’s order is pretty clear; they’re closed to inside service,” he said. “Businesses and citizens have been exceptionally good at following the direction and executive orders when they’ve been issued. That’s part of the reason for issuing the order, it eliminates confusion about ‘should I do this or shouldn’t I do this.’”

Nowling said from here its wise for residents to prepare for the long haul.

“The governor’s office and county executive’s office and city are all looking at this moment-to-moment to figure out what is the best and safest course of action to take,” he said.


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