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Police and bars prepare for St. Patrick's Day


Police and bars prepare for St. Patrick's Day

Veterans of the bar industry and law enforcement call it amateur hour: The period over the holiday w
Police and bars prepare for St. Patrick's Day
Rich Ogden, of Glens Falls, organizer of an annual bar crawl from Queensbury to Saratoga for St. Patrick's Day, drinks a beer during a stop at Druther's on Broadway in Saratoga Springs on March 16, 2013.
Photographer: The Associated Press

Veterans of the bar industry and law enforcement call it amateur hour: The period over the holiday weekend when inexperienced drinkers are out in force.

And if that holiday happens to be St. Patrick's Day, it's the time when they're likely to face the greatest number of headaches. The celebration of Ireland's patron saint has become nearly synonymous with the consumption of alcohol, meaning tipplers of all types will be in plentiful supply—some of them will cause trouble.

Only with the holiday falling on a Monday this year, amateur hour is a bit of a moving target. In Albany, many associate the city's annual parade today with the most significant difficulties they'll see around the St. Patrick's Day holiday.

"Amateur hour is mainly parade day," said Jason Bennett, a veteran bartender who has worked the holiday in Albany every year since 1996. "Then you have the coattailers that do [St. Patrick's] proper as well."

The 64th annual parade steps off from Quail Street and Central Avenue at 2 p.m., then winds through the city before traveling east down Pearl Street.Many won't wait for the parade to start drinking, meaning bar workers like Bennett will likely start seeing the first amateur hour troublemakers long before the parade is in full swing.

Albany still hasn't lived down the notoriety created by the so-called Kegs and Eggs riot, a melee that broke out in the Pine Hills neighborhood hours before the parade touched off in 2011. Scores of intoxicated students --many from the University at Albany --overturned cars and clashed with police, leading to more than 40 arrests.

The fracas caused the university enough grief that administrators have since scheduled spring break to fall on St. Patrick's Day. UAlbany's spring break started after classes Friday, so the bulk of the student body will be out of the city as the holiday tippling begins.

Of course, the absence of UAlbany students doesn't mean there aren't any issues still with the parade. Last year, a fracas broke out among a group of about a dozen young men on the steps of West Capitol Park; the brawl lead to an Albany police officer getting punched in the face and at least four arrests.

These drunken shenanigans aren't unique to Albany either. In Saratoga Springs, a booze-fueled brawl downtown lead to a city man getting run down by a motorist and killed during the pre-dawn hours after St. Patrick's Day in 2010.

In general though, the difficulties arising from St. Patty's revelry are less salacious. In addition to rowdy, sometimes over-intoxicated crowds, police contend with a usual roundup of drunken motorists during the holiday.

Road patrols for the state police and sheriff's departments across the Capital Region will be bolstered this weekend. Schenectady County Sheriff Dominc Dagostino anticipates a busy weekend leading into an even busier Monday.

"The amateur hour will probably be Monday night," he speculated. "But the weekend will be pretty active also."

Law enforcement like to warn of the stepped-up patrols in hope that it will act as a deterance for would-be drunken drivers. Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said he'd be thrilled if his deputies didn't need to make any arrests over the weekend and on St. Patrick's Day.

"We're hoping people do their due diligence and have a designated driver," he said. "I'd love to not have any [driving while intoxicated] arrests over the weekend and have people use the common sense to have a designated driver instead."

In downtown Saratoga Springs, the city police will be out in force. Lt. Robert Jillson said police staffing will be increased all weekend, but officers are expecting to face the brunt of trouble this evening.

"We've learned from past incidents to keep attention at high traffic areas," he said.

Though Monday could be just as busy. Jillson said many revelers will take a half-day when St. Patty's doesn't fall on a weekend and hit the bars starting around noon.

"We always run into that," he said. "It's easy on a day like this to overindulge."

Tyler Kelley will undoubtedly be on the receiving end of the intoxicate masses wandering by the Local Pub and Teahouse on Grand Avenue. The bar manager is working through the holiday, including a stretch of roughly 30 hours between Sunday morning through Monday night.

"I'll putting in a lot of hours this weekend," he said.

For bar staff, those long hours can mean a lot of tips too. The shear volume of drinkers can bring in a nice pre-spring haul for workers weathering the slower winger months.

That volume can also be a nuisance for patrons not wanting to deal with crowds that have an average blood alcohol content drifting toward double digits. though he's expecting crowds all weekend long, Kelley pegged Sunday afternoon as the time when the less-experienced St. Patrick's Day drinkers will be out in force.

"That'll be Sunday afternoon," he advised. "Watch out for Sunday, take the day off and go out to enjoy it on Monday."

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