LIMA — In the wake of a canceled Lima Irish Parade due to coronavirus dangers, local downtown business owners rallied together Wednesday hours after the news broke to re-establish their own version of the popular community event they’re calling the “Irish Cruise.”
Ray Magnus, owner of 318 Restaurant & Bar, led the meeting Wednesday afternoon to ask if there was support for holding an alternative to the parade that still celebrated Irish tradition.
“If everybody wants to do it, let’s do it,” Magnus said.
The assembled business owners — many who own downtown establishments — agreed.
Magnus expects good turnout for the event. Since the announcement, public fervor erupted on social media with many people blaming the City of Lima for what they say were unnecessary precautions during a pandemic.
Even so, Magnus warned against blaming the city administration for pushing parade organizers to cancel the event.
Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health recommended that the public limit indoor gatherings, and Magnus said that the city would have faced blow-back if it chose to follow the state’s lead or not.
“Did the mayor do the right thing? Probably. Do I agree with it? No,” Magnus said.
After some discussion, the group established the cruise route as starting at Northland Plaza and heading south on Main Street before breaking up at North Street. Those participating in the cruise plan to meet at 11:15 a.m., and the official start time is noon.
Bar owners had some financial incentive to establish the cruise in the wake of the parade’s cancellation. Many have already invested thousands of dollars in both St. Patrick’s Day themed food and drink, and the downtown crowd that gathers for the parade often fuels a day of celebration throughout the downtown bar scene.
“We’re all here in the same business. We’re all still having activities. We’re all doing the exact same thing,” Christine Franklin, owner of Mulligan’s Bar, said.
As for the danger posed by the viral pandemic, Magnus didn’t downplay the seriousness of the disease, especially among older individuals, but since the cruise is taking place outside, bar owners said the harm is at least somewhat negated.
“We don’t see it doing any damage. The parade is outside,” former parade Grand Marshal Bob Mulcahy said.
“There are the days when everyone comes together,” Franklin said. “It’s not about the money or the parade. It’s about our community. This is one of those days we are all together.”
Public health officials and Mayor David Berger spoke Wednesday about some of the dangers of exposure to COVID-19 during the weekly mayor’s press conference. While reported cases in the United States have recently reached the thousand mark, Berger and Allen County Health Commissioner Kathy Luhn explained that many of the government recommendations are precautions to slow down the spread of the virus and lessen the impact the virus is expected to have on health care resources.
Berger, for example, used a historical comparison to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that ended up killing 12,000 residents in Philadelphia. At the time, sailors with the Spanish flu ended up walking through crowds gathered to watch the Liberty Loan parade, and the resulting outbreak from the event made Philadelphia one of the hardest-hit cities in the United States.
“They had to stack dead bodies on porches. It was a dangerous circumstance,” Berger said.
An hour after the Irish Cruise page was created on Facebook, over 200 people had stated their interest in going to the new event, and downtown bars have maintained their St. Patrick’s Day plans.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.