SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Last year, Mayor Van Johnson asked a committee of stack holders, including business, tourism and law enforcement leaders, to reimagine Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival.
When council was presented with the final three recommendations at Thursday’s work session, Mayor Johnson said “We know that the event has morphed into something that sometimes we don’t recognize, not only a huge amount of drinking but a huge amount of underage drinking.”
The committee recommends extending the festival’s to-go cup zone to Victory Drive to the south and Truman Parkway to the east, suspending alcohol and entertainment permits on public right-of-ways, and no longer allowing out of town “party buses” to park within the to-go zone.
According to the committee, the recommendations are designed to drive more foot traffic into local bars and restaurants.
6th district Alderman Kurtis Purtee worries businesses outside the extended to-go zone might be left out.
“If I have a business that has a food truck on the south side and wants to partake downtown, and if I have two liquor establishments on the south side that want to partake downtown are they now excluded from doing so?” Purtee asked.
Savannah City Manager Jay Melder assured that local food trucks would be allowed to get permits for certain areas. However, he went on to say that “in terms of public permitting this ordinance would limit alcohol sales only to the establishments that are brick and mortar.”
Second District Alderman Detric Leggett asked about increased foot traffic in neighborhoods, while at-large Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter thinks now is not the time to make any changes.
“I think this is the absolute worst time to extend this and test it. A better time to extend it and test it would be outside of St. Patrick’s Day where we have more of a litmus test of what this means to our locals,” she told fellow aldermen.
The full council must vote on the proposed changes before they can be implemented. That is expected to happen in two weeks.