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CHICAGO (STMW) – Nearly three years after it was scrapped because it had morphed into a beer-drenched, arrest-filled nightmare for Beverly and other neighborhoods on the far Southwest Side, the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade appears to be coming back.
The Chicago Department of Transportation has issued a permit to the parade committee, meaning the parade will again march down Western Avenue on March 11, committee chairman Joe Connelly said late Friday. Organizers vow the parade will be family-friendly with a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol use by anyone.
The city’s decision to approve the parade’s permit was somewhat of a surprise because Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) staunchly opposed the plan and even wrote Mayor Rahm Emanuel in an effort to block its return. On Monday, O’Shea sent a letter to Emanuel expressing his dissatisfaction with recent parades which, he wrote, had become “rowdy, drunken, and often violent.”
But after receiving assurances from the parade committee that strict crowd control policies would be in place, the city approved the permit Thursday, Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Scales said.
“We share the same concerns as Ald. O’Shea,” Scales said. “The parade committee needs to work with the police to come up with a real security plan that ensures the safety of the neighborhood during the event.”
The parade committee is well aware of the safety concerns, Connelly said, and has hired a private security firm to work with Chicago police during the parade. Local merchants donated $80,000 to hire S3 Safety Service Systems, a company that provides security for Bears games, Connelly said.
“Safety is paramount to our plan,” Connelly said. “We are serious about having a zero-tolerance alcohol police, and that’s for everybody. Our intent is to have an alcohol-free parade.”
Police and the security company will install “an exterior boundary” for the parade route, he said. Coolers and bags will be checked for alcoholic beverages, he said.
“It’s no different than what they do at Taste of Chicago,” he said.
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