(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
The South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade may be months off, but those in the neighborhood are already working to turn the tide of drinking at the event.
A coalition of non-profits, residents, and law enforcement officials met Friday morning at the Lincoln Tavern on West Broadway to lay out this year’s plan to curb over-indulgence by parade goers.
“One of our main concerns is public safety,” said Kay Walsh, director of South Boston Can Reduce Underage Drinking, which heads the effort. “We see the parade as a traditional thing and we’re concerned it’s become an excuse to drink excessively.”
The coalition, which includes neighborhood associations, elected officials, and long-time parade supporters, has been working for decades to put an end to the excessive revelry.
Not only did the group cite the obvious concerns that surround drinking, including public intoxication, property damage, and violence, but they also said it impacts the children who flock to the event.
“We’ve been working for 35-years to promote the parade as a family event,” said Bob Monahan, an area resident and longtime supporter of South Boston CAN Reduce Underage Drinking.
Last year the Boston Police Department issued 244 citations for drinking in public and arrested eight people during the parade, according to the Boston Globe.
Representatives from BPD were present at Friday’s meeting and said they are working diligently and plan to keep up with last year’s efforts.
“We’ll pretty much have the same game plan as last year, unless something drastic changes,” said Sargent Tim Gaughan, of BPD’s District C-6 Office.
In addition to the police presence, South Boston Can Reduce Underage Drinking has also been working with area liquor stores and bars to encourage them to close early and control their patrons.
Last year liquor stores were only allowed to be open from noon to 4 p.m. Bars did not admit new patrons after 6:30 p.m. and customers had to vacate the bars by 7:30 p.m.
“The game plan in the past has worked,” said Mark McGonagle, a representative from South Boston City Councilor Bill Linehan’s office. “The increase in the number of officers and citations has worked and we’d like to see that continue.”
Friday’s meeting, which had close to 20 attendees, was just the beginning of the planning effort by the group to help not only cut down on drinking by revelers, but provide safe alcohol-free activities for families.
The next meeting, which is open to the public, will be held Feb. 8 at 11 a.m. the location has not yet been set.
Along with talking about the consumption of alcohol at the annual March parade, the group discussed the current two parade set up.
Since 2010 there have two parades on St. Patrick’s Day in South Boston; The Allied War Veterans Council’s “traditional” parade, which typically goes first, and the Veterans for Peace’s “peace parade”, which goes second.
The two parades do not march together because of a court decision that said the Allies War Veterans Council, a private group, can decide who is allowed to march in its parade. The council in the past has excluded the marchers in the second parade, which, along with the antiwar group, includes gay rights groups.
Members voted unanimously at Friday’s meeting to support the distribution of a petition calling on the Allied War Veterans Council for a combining of the two parades.
“Our youth need us to be positive adult role models who respect and respond to inclusion in every aspect of our community life,” reads the petition. “Let this parade be a symbol of what it means to be a true American.”
A representative for the Allied War Veterans Council was not present Friday.
Ed Flynn, chief marshal of the 2013 parade, in an email Friday afternoon, did not say if his group had any plans to combine the parades.
"The veterans of South Boston have collectively worked hard over many years to organize this celebration as we honor and remember the sacrifice and patriotism of veterans and their families. South Boston Veterans and their families have sacrificed for our country and we are proud of these veterans and their families. And once these veterans returned home, they continued that same service in helping build this great country," said the email.