Terry Bacchi answered the phone at Schenectady’s Ancient Order of Hibernians and took an order.
“You want two dinners, three sandwiches, two colcannons — is that it?” she asked. “Anything else? Name, please. Spell that please. What time did you want to pick that up?”
The pipes were not calling at the Hibernians’ headquarters on Tuesday — St. Patrick’s Day — but bunches of people were. State-mandated coronavirus precautions issued Monday closed bars and restaurants on one of the biggest celebration days of the year.
Take-out service remains in play, so some kitchens are still working.
Members of the Hibernians’ JFK Division 1 chapter, who said they had already cooked hundreds of pounds of corned beef by the time the new rules were announced, decided to sell $10 dinners, $8 sandwiches and side orders in a quickly-devised drive-through operation in front of their State Street stronghold.
“The phones started ringing at about 8:30 this morning and it has not stopped,” said Kim Depeaux, president of the Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians, during the noontime rush. “We’ve had the kitchen tell us to start keeping track of orders so we don’t run out. So we’re happy with that.”
Business boomed. By 4 p.m., all the food had been sold.
John Ericson, the Hibernian’s corporate board president, said the hall’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebration — which usually lasts from early afternoon into evening — is a major fundraiser for the organization. And while the Hibernians lost revenue from beverage sales on Tuesday, the drive-through operation allowed the group to sell lunches and dinners.
“The liquor’s not perishable,” Ericson said, smiling. “The food is.”
Ericson also said the Hibernians might host a St. Patrick’s Day-style celebration later in the year, when the health crisis has subsided.
Irish music played inside the hall, which was closed to the public. Chairs at the bar, which would have been filled with people during a usual St. Patrick’s Day, were filled with coats and purses.
Volunteers dressed in shamrock-spangled pants and green sweaters used an electronic scanner to take body temperatures of other volunteers, to ensure there were no fevers.
Men and women were told to sanitize their hands. Volunteers handling food — corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots were placed in Styrofoam cartons — were ordered to wear latex gloves.
Outside, the vehicle line in the parking lot moved quickly. Hibernian members guided drivers into one end of the lot and waved them out the other end to exit.
Member Dan Ryan, a sergeant with the Rotterdam Police Department, walked up to cars and sports utility vehicles and took drivers’ orders. Ryan is familiar with the routine; he’s talked to motorists through open car windows on town roads in the past.
“I think that’s why they stuck me out here in the parking lot,” Ryan said, laughing.
“People have been very supportive, a lot of people are giving us donations in addition to what they’re paying for their food because they know this is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Ryan said. “This supports our hall for the whole year usually, so people have been real helpful.”
Owen Cole of Charlton helped attract attention to the operation by attracting attention to himself. Dressed in a green vest, green plastic derby and a psychedelically-colored apron, Cole waved a large wooden shamrock on the side of State Street to alert drivers about the meal deal.
“Most everybody was laughing, gave you a smile and a high sign,” Cole said.
People behind the wheel were soon behind a plate of corned beef and cabbage. “I’ve got some cooking at home, too,” said Betty Ann Maddox of Schenectady. “I’m supporting what this is.”
“They put a lot into this,” said Dave Bullett of Rotterdam. “This is their biggest day of the year … it was innovative of them to go to the take-out.”
Contact staff writer Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]