The Long Beach Police Department on Saturday will replicate last year’s model for policing the Irish Day Parade and Festival.
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“We had a very good model last year; we had tremendous success,” LBPD Commissioner Tangney told a crowd of West End residents at a civic association meeting Sept. 18.
The parade, which begins at Washington Boulevard at West Beech Street, will kick off an hour early, at 11 a.m., and the festival will also end an hour earlier, at 5 p.m., before sundown, after which West Beech Street in the West End, where both events are held, will reopen to traffic, Tangney said.
The most important part of the model, though, is that the bars that dot West Beech will close earlier as well. Bar owners have agreed to stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. and have all patrons leave their establishments by 2 a.m., instead of 4 a.m., Sunday.
“We’ve had meetings with the storeowners to ask them to cooperate, and we go out to the bar owners to make sure they comply with the [State Liquor Authority] rules and regulations,” Tangney said. “And we will be watching very, very carefully.”
St. Brendan’s Festival, the official name of the event organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians for the past 24 years, features traditional Irish entertainment and food, respectively, but police have found problems with drunken revelers usually pick up after dark and during the wee hours of Sunday morning. Tangney said police last year had fewer problems and needed to make fewer arrests at last year’s event.
“It was a lot more manageable,” he said about using the new model. “... Unfortunately we do write a slew of summonses on Irish Day and we do make a bunch of arrests. It does get a little unruly and that’s why we scaled back the hours.”
Bob Johnson, owner of The Cabana, a Mexican restaurant-bar at 1034 W. Beech, said he doesn’t have any problems with the policy. “I believe we were completely closed by 1 a.m. last year,” he told Patch.
On Saturday the LBPD will again have fewer officers to patrol the parade and festival, since staffing has been reduced, Tangney said. While four squads typically worked the event in years past, the department scaled back to three squads, each consisting of a detective, a sergeant, and a lieutenant, as well as six to seven officers for patrols.
“We have a zero tolerance for public consumption of alcohol,” Tangney noted.
Irish Day was almost cancelled last year when residents railed against drunken, law-breaking post-parade revelers, and the City of Long Beach said they could no longer assume all the costs associated with the parade. To stage the event, though, West End businesses were required to pay the city $25,000 to cover the costs of the parade and festival, and businesses, the city and AOH agreed to limit the hours of the event and have bars close and clear out earlier, according to the Long Beach Herald
At the civic meeting on Sept. 18, one woman, a West End resident, asked the commissioner why the city couldn’t just get rid of Irish Day, to which several residents in the packed room at the West End Community Center applauded her comment. She then asked: “Why don’t we bring Irish Day to the center of Long Beach?”
Tangney said that proposals have been made to move the festival to the boardwalk, where arts and crafts fairs are held each summer, or to Kennedy Plaza, outside City Hall, where the city holds an annual fall festival. “ But there’s tremendous opposition to it,” he said.
“The residents of the West End, I would say most of us, don’t want it,” the resident said, to which a few in the room objected, saying they supported having the parade and festival.
Another resident suggested that the city put the issue to a public vote.