Downtown York bars could take a bath without Saint Patrick's parade

Logan Hullinger
The 35th Annual York Saint Patrick's Day Parade makes its way down Market Street in York City, Saturday, March 17, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Owners and workers at bars in downtown York City are fearful their profits will be throttled after organizers on Thursday announced the St. Patrick's Day Parade was canceled over concerns about the coronavirus.

The parade, which had been scheduled for Saturday, attracts thousands annually to downtown York. Its organizers announced the cancellation minutes before York City Mayor Michael Helfrich declared a state of emergency, adding the virus could be "potentially devastating" to local businesses.

The city has not instructed any businesses or events to be shut down.  But both owners and staff at downtown bars, who rely on the parade to reap massive profits, were shocked by the organizers' choice to opt for a cancellation.

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"They shut down the biggest day of the year," said Scott Eden, owner of Holy Hound, shortly after the announcement. "I didn't really blame them for doing it, but it's just awful timing. We are sending beer back as they are delivering it right now."

"It's going to get worse before it gets better," Eden said of the effects the virus will have on his business.

Calogero Elia, director of operations at Iron Horse, said his business could lose up to 70% — more realistically 40-50% — of its profits over the weekend because of the move.

Already, business owners were contending with water main reconstruction, which has snarled traffic in downtown York for weeks and driven away customers, Elia said.

"It's huge. It's going to affect (business) a lot," Elia said. "Now you add the coronavirus, it's scaring everybody. People are afraid of coming downtown right now."

Others working at bars downtown directly rebuked the parade organizers' decision to shut down the event.

Tyler Zell, the front bar manager at Fig & Barrel, said people are overreacting to the virus and that the cancellation was "a really stupid call."

"Right off the bat, it will definitely impact our business," he said. "It's one of the busiest days of the year for all of these local businesses."

St. Patrick's Day parades have also been canceled in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as health officials urge people to remain clear of large crowds.

There were 22 known cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania as of Thursday evening, according to the state Health Department. No cases have been reported in York County.

The cancellation of York's event came a day after the National Basketball Association suspended its season and Penn State University told students not to return from spring break. 

The disease is especially dangerous for the elderly, health officials have said.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.