SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — The traditional weekend St. Patrick’s Day street party got the boot Tuesday from a Town Council committee after residents complained about an inebriated crowd of thousands at the event last spring.
“We don’t want it to continue at all. We don’t. It is a drunkfest,” said islander Karen Coste.
The three-member Town Council Public Safety Committee voted unanimously in favor of a scaled-down celebration on Tuesday March 17, which is St. Patrick’s Day.
“This is a very small event this year,” said Pat O’Neil, mayor-elect and committee member.
O’Neil and council members Chauncey Clark and Mary Jane Watson recommended that Dunleavy’s Pub be allowed to have its outdoor St. Patrick’s Day party from 10 a.m. to dusk on Station 221/2 Street from Middle Street to I’on Avenue. Dunleavy’s had also applied for permission to have a St. Patrick’s Day outdoor party on Saturday March 14.
Jamie Maher, a Dunleavy’s operating partner, said the committee recommendation was disappointing and he noted that people will be at school and work when the approved celebration happens. He expressed regret over the problems last spring.
“None of us wanted what happened last year,” he said.
Then, the commercial district was closed to vehicle traffic for St. Patrick’s Day and people partied in Middle Street. Last year’s event drew an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 revelers. Some of them urinated and vomited in public. Others banged on police cars that moved along the street as authorities tried to restore order, officials said.
“For those of us who live around here, it didn’t feel real safe,” said Luke Lewis.
The committee voted to recommend to the full council that no more applications from food and beverage businesses be accepted for a St. Patrick’s Day street party.
Other Middle Street restaurant proprietors expressed regret over the unruly crowd last spring.
“We want to work with the town however we can. ... I don’t think anybody is happy with the way last year went,” said Aaron Siegel, owner and executive chef of Home Team BBQ on Middle Street.
Although street parties have been restricted, restaurants are free to have St. Patrick’s Day festivities as allowed on private property but the crowd will be limited to the legal maximum occupancy of buildings as set by the fire marshal, officials said.
The island St. Patrick’s Day party, which is a 20-year tradition, grew to a massive event last year that drew the resident backlash.
“It’s time to send this event somewhere else,” Coste said.
About 20 people attended the meeting. The recommendation requires approval of the full seven-member Council.
Maher said he was disappointed that the committee voted against the pre-St. Patrick’s Day weekend party but he was glad council members OK’d the festivities on Station 22½ Street on March 17. That is where Dunleavy’s held its Polar Bear Plunge party on New Year’s Day which drew an estimated 5,000 people who had a drink and then celebrated the advent of 2015 with a mad dash into the freezing ocean.
Town Council scaled back the Polar Bear Plunge this year by limiting the outdoor crowd to Station 22½ Street. Orange “jersey barriers” were placed along Middle Street to keep participants out of the road.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711