The Strip understands that after last year's shooting and other loutish behavior, organizers wanted to get the annual St. Patrick's Day parade under control. So we can get behind the changes the parade commission came up with this year. The earlier start time, the shorter parade route, the barriers lining Grand Avenue -- those were all fine with us.
But something else makes us wonder whether the parade planners, in their passion for making the downtown celebration "family friendly," went a little too far.
Only after the parade began, at what felt like dawn on St. Paddy's Day, did we find that several Main Street businesses -- a couple of blocks away from the parade route -- had been denied city permits to set up their traditional tents for outdoor celebrations.
Now, let this meat patty reveal all of its gristle up front and make a full disclosure. The Pitch promoted an outdoor St. Pat's party with its next-door neighbor, the Bulldog restaurant. And because the Bulldog was denied its permit, this liquor-swillin' sirloin had to do its imbibin' that day inside the Bulldog's crammed and smoky dining room instead of outside on a bee-yootiful March day. It was a crime of the highest order.
This rump roast wants to make it perfectly clear that it doesn't care if its employer lost a couple of bucks promoting a party that didn't happen. We were more unhappy that we didn't get to wander to a parking lot next door and get our green beer on with the sun shinin'.
Bulldog manager Michelle Fowler is pretty steamed with how the city handled the matter. The restaurant is still fairly new to the neighborhood, and this was the first time Fowler had negotiated the maze of red tape that the supposedly downtown-business-friendly city requires for a catered-tent affair.
"You have to have your permits 30 days ahead of the event," she says. "There's a $150 application fee. You have to get applications from the city, from the state, from the fire department and the health department. Then they turned around and told us no." The notice came less than three weeks before the event. And the Bulldog wasn't the only one.
Hereford House vice president John Geiger confirmed that his restaurant's tent also was denied a permit, and John Gordon, owner of the DB, is still peeved that his patrons couldn't have a gay old time out of doors. "This was the third or fourth year of doing it," Gordon says. "It's been kind of a building thing for us. And we didn't know until, like, two days before St. Patrick's Day that we couldn't do it. We had staffed it, too." He adds that he was told by the city's liquor board that he couldn't set up a tent until 3 p.m. -- three hours after the end of the parade. "Who's going to put up a tent at 3 p.m.? That's almost when the sun goes down on a March day, and people would be coming inside. They know that."
The liquor board's Judy Hadley assures us that her employees told business owners their tents were prohibited only during the actual parade hours, from 10 a.m. to noon. "Three p.m.? That wouldn't be true. That's not our policy," Hadley says. She also denies that her staffers surprised restaurant owners with late-breaking news about the new rules. "And that's going to be our policy next year as well," she adds. The new policy is the result of the parade commission's reaction to last year's shooting and other problems, she says. "The main thing was the family atmosphere of the parade."
OK, we know, we know -- it's all about the children. Last thing we'd want is for kids to get the idea that downtown is the kind of place where adults might actually have a good time of their own.
We called up Mary Nestel, who's in her ninth year with the parade commission, and asked her what was wrong with a little quaffing to celebrate the last hoary days of winter.
"What's a parade for?" she asked this cutlet. "We have to make a decision on what to do. Have a wild, drunken party? Or have an Irish parade?"
Sorry, we weren't really aware that there was much of a difference.
"St. Patrick's Day is an Irish holiday," Nestel corrected us. "It's not focused on drunkenness."
Really? St. Pat's isn't about drinking? We suppose next you'll be telling this beer-basted broiler that Cinco de Mayo really is a celebration of an obscure 19th-century Mexican military victory and not a plot invented by Corona shareholders.
Nestel was awfully proud of how the changes affected this year's celebration. "It's a great event for Kansas City," she said. "There was no violence. No fights. Less trash. People felt more comfortable. And everyone still had a good time."
Well, we're glad that Nestel had so much success making our recovering downtown a place where kiddies can feel safe hugging barriers while waving to TV anchors on floats.
But come on, what's wrong with a little grown-up Erin Go Bragh, a couple of blocks away, put on by a class joint like the Bulldog?
"The tent decision wasn't necessarily us. That might necessarily change," she offered.
Whew. Let's hope someone tells Hadley.
And in the meantime, let's get ready to down tequila shots for the Mexican army!
Tony Ortega talks about this week's Pitch with KRBZ 96.5's Lazlo after 4 p.m. Wednesday.