SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Over the years, the St. Patrick’s Day festival in Savannah has taken on a spring break-like atmosphere, according to Mayor Van Johnson.
He and other city leaders representing business, tourism and, of course, the St. Patrick’s Day Planning Committee joined the mayor Thursday to announce a retooling of the festival.
They’ve submitted three proposed ordinance changes for city council members to vote on:
- Extend the festival zone to Victory Drive
- No on-street permits
- No permits for out-of-town motor coaches
Savannah City Council is expected to start reviewing the recommendations in the first part of February with a final decision on Feb. 21.
“We want to make sure that our city has the right brand. And we want to be the city that people come and have the time of their life that they remember — that they remember,” Johnson emphasized.
The day prior in his weekly press conference, the mayor took issue with the “drunk fest” that he says St. Patrick’s Day has become.
“I’m out during St. Patrick’s Day and I see people laying in the streets. I don’t want their experience with Savannah to be connected to our sidewalk,” Johnson said Wednesday.
He believes the recommendations will change the atmosphere of the holiday in the Hostess City, making it more worthwile for residents and local businesses.
City leaders believe expanding the zone to Victory Drive would allow more businesses to benefit from festival traffic.
“That just, again, gives opportunities for minority businesses, Black-owned businesses to take part and have those opportunities that they probably did not have before,” said Tomeca McPherson with the Greater Savannah Black Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile, changing on-street permits would mean any festivalgoers would have to buy food and alcohol at local bars or restaurants rather than street vendors.
“This is Savannah first, and this gives our local businesses the opportunity to basically unilaterally serve our guests and people who are here,” Johnson said.
The final recommendation would prohibit any motor coaches or party buses from outside of Chatham County to park within the festival zone.
“These party buses are usually filled with already intoxicated individuals who come to Savannah only for the street party,” the mayor explained. “They arrive intoxicated, they do not patronize local businesses, nor do they stay in local hotels.”
Pending any changes due to COVID-19, St. Patrick’s Day festivities would likely kick off the weekend before Savannah’s parade on Thursday, March 17.