The downtown bars of Springfield, IL have been told that there will be no St. Patrick’s Day parade this year if they don’t cough up $500 each.
In a meeting last Tuesday, the St. Patrick’s Day Marching Band Parade Inc., the non-profit group that organizes the parade, told bar managers and owners that if they don’t pay up to cover the costs of the parade’s aftermath, there would be no parade.
The president of the group, Jim McDonough, said he didn’t “ask them for any money directly.”
“What they decided to do was, they believe the parade is too important for the downtown business community,” McDonough said. “They figured out, based upon what we were looking at, a public works bill would be over 3,000 bucks.”
He told The State Journal-Register, a Springfield newspaper, that money has been an issue for the parade for several years.
“We were kind of kicking this around for the last two or three years of whether we’d be able to pull together a parade,” McDonough said. “Money was one of the issues. This year we have brought together a number of folks who are stakeholders in the parade.”
The annual parade, scheduled for March 12 this year, is a family event, but the downtown bars of Springfield are usually packed with partiers well into the evening.
The bar owners, who have formed their own group, the Downtown Bar Association, were told establishments on the parade route would have to pay $500 each while those near the route were to pay $250 each. Other businesses and restaurants have not been asked to contribute.
“It was said to us that if we want the parade to happen, we have to raise the money,” said Brewhaus bar manager Nathan Short. “Shops and restaurants are not being asked for money, and they’re still getting the benefits of the St. Patrick’s Day parade."
“In a business sense, I think that we’re being taken advantage of a little bit,” he added.
On Wednesday, Mayor Frank Edwards said Wednesday that the city at one time considered charging for parades, but that the city is not asking bars for the money.
While McDonough said the city of Springfield hasn’t provided a specific figure for costs for the day of the parade, he estimates the costs for cleanup and overtime for the day could be more than $3,000. The cost of the parade itself is $6,000 to $8,000.
“The city’s position is, ‘You guys have your parade, and we’re out there at 3 in the morning, taking down barricades,’” McDonough said. “It has nothing to do with what a parade is. Our position is the parade is a one-hour event.”
St. Patrick’s Day is the bars’ biggest sales day of the year, so the owners are paying, albeit reluctantly.
“It’s punching us at our weakest point right now,” Short said.
The bars have decided to hold a fundraising bar crawl on Feb. 18 called “Chase the Leprechaun” to raise the money.