If organizers and local officials have their way, the days of the South Side Irish Parade crowd being viewed as a green-clad drunken horde are long gone.
The City Council's Public Safety Committee unanimously voted Thursday morning to move forward an ordinance that would significantly increase the fines for those found to be drinking near parade routes anywhere in the city.
The measure, sponsored by Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th), and worked on by the South Side Irish Parade Committee is viewed by its drafters as another tool to curtail drinking at the famed parade.
"I want our community to know that we are doing everything possible to make sure it remains a safe family friendly event, as it was last year," O'Shea said. "This ordinance is another tool in the police department's tool box."
The parade returned to Western Avenue last year after a two year absence. The committee has been careful to emphasize the neighborhood aspects of the event and a strict zero tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol.
The parade will once again have private security and strict restrictions on revelers being bused in from other locations, said Joe Connelly, co-chair of the parade committee.
It was the parade committee that approached him with the idea for the ordinance, O'Shea said.
"It helps us work within our security plan and with the Chicago Police Department so that many of the old behaviors don't come back," Connelly said. "There is really no room for open alcohol and this ordinance just further reinforces that."
The ordinance, if approved by the full council next Wednesday, will enhance fines for those cited for the following violations within 800 feet of a parade route:
- Drinking on the public way increases from a minimum of $100 and maximum of $500, to a minimum of $500 and maximum of $1,000
- Intoxication by a minor rises from $25 for the first violation and $100 for subsequent violations to $500 or 25 hours of community service
- Public urination or defecation will increase from a minimum of $100 and maximum of $500, to $500 and $1,000 respectively
For his part, Connelly sees the parade as a unique opportunity to showcase the Beverly and Morgan Park neighborhoods.
"We think some people see the neighborhood for the first time and come back to frequent a restaurant, or better yet come back to buy a house," Connelly said.
With added security, comes added costs and the committee is holding a fundraiser at 115 Bourbon Street to help raise funds for the parade effort.
O'Shea says the constant communication and coordination between the committee, his office and the various city departments is key in keeping the parade a crime free event.
There were no arrests made during the actual parade last year, O'Shea said.
"I've literally stayed up at night worrying that something could go wrong at this thing because '07, '08 and '09 were so out of control," O'Shea said. "We just want to make sure families can come out and celebrate their heritage together, safely and celebrate what a great community we have."
The parade committee plans to announce the grand marshals of this year's parade next week. For the first time this year, the March 10 event will also feature a one-mile race down Western Avenue dubbed the Emerald Isle Mile.
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