A pre-pandemic St. Patrick's Day bar crawl in Wrigleyville in Chicago. Credit: Facebook / Provided

WICKER PARK — With large gatherings being banned or discouraged across much of the nation, Chicago businesses have been urged to cancel events that draw large crowds.

But some Chicagoans aren’t ready to hang up their beer goggles.

As of Friday morning, four different daytime St. Patrick’s Day bar crawls were still on for the weekend.

There’s the $25 Lucky Charm Bar Crawl from noon-10 p.m., the $23 Lucked UP! Bar Crawl from 1-7 p.m., the $25 St. Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl from 4-9 p.m. and the $25 St. Patrick’s Day Division Street Bar Crawl from 4-9 p.m.

Two of the organizers, WAMI LIVE INC and Bar Crawl Nation, did not return requests for comment.

Peter Shen, co-founder of MPC Events, said in an email his company’s two Wicker Park crawls and a third, in River North, are still on as planned.

He expects about 35 crawlers on Division Street and 75 on Milwaukee Avenue. The River North event is expected to draw at least 100 people.

“I understand the concern out there for social gatherings,” he said. “I think my numbers are not big. It’s probably no bigger than an average Saturday night though my crawls are in the daytime.”

In a Facebook event description for the Lucked UP! crawl, organizer Bar Crawl Nation stated its events “typically draw 500-1000+ participants!”

Bar crawls in Wrigleyville appear to remain scheduled, too.

There’s the sold-out St. Pat’s Afternoon Crawl from 3-6 p.m., beginning at Charm’d, 3505 N. Clark St.

There’s also the $60 Chicago Shamrock Crawl, which lasts from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Organized by a company called Chicago Twenty Something, the crawl already has 360 attendees marked as “going” on Facebook, and nearly 2,000 “interested.” 

Even if the crawls themselves doesn’t reach 250 participants, Dr. Rahul Khare, an emergency room doctor with a background in epidemiology, said he still recommends against the activity.

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“Unfortunately, by going to places with large crowds, such as a bar crawl, you will be in close contact with hundreds of people,” he said. “Those bars are cramped quarters. It’s shoulder-to-shoulder, people leaning on each other.”

Itineraries for the Wicker Park crawls vary, but some locations may overlap. For example, both the The Lucky Charms and Lucked UP! crawls plan to visit Standard Bar and Grill, 1332 N. Milwaukee Ave. and DSTRKT Bar, 1540 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Those who plan to drink should stay hydrated and do their best to avoid physical contact with others, Khare said.

Asymptomatic young people are likely to catch and spread the virus, he added.

“Now that we know this is a pandemic, we don’t have any excuses for going to large gatherings,” he said. “Before, we weren’t sure, [and] you don’t want to create anxiety and fear over nothing. Now … it’s not a matter of ‘if’ its going to affect us, it’s ‘when.'”

Alcohol itself does not act as an immunosuppressant, Khare said.

So having a “few beers” while practicing social distancing isn’t as dangerous as attending a bar crawl.

Khare said he himself plans to celebrate the “Chicago tradition” by paying a visit to his neighborhood bar, Paddy Long’s.

“Whether you’re Irish or not, it’s a celebratory day,” he said. “What I’m doing is very different. I’m going out for lunch, a sandwich and a Guinness … and going back home.”

Khare’s practice, Innovative Care, is currently offering COVID-19 testing. Located at 2400 N. Ashland Ave., Innovative Care is on the border between Lincoln Park and Bucktown.

Isaac Reichman, spokesman for the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said the department reached out to all licensed businesses about canceling large events, but would not comment on bar crawls specifically.

A St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl in Chicago. Credit: WAMI LIVE, INC / Facebook / Provided

Officials already canceled Chicago’s large St. Patrick’s Day festivities this weekend and said they’ll cancel concerts and other events if needed.

Gov. JB Pritkzer and Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced they have banned events of 1,000 or more people — including concerts and sports games — for at least the next 30 days in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus. As of Thursday afternoon, 32 people had tested positive for the virus in Illinois, many of them in Chicago and Cook County.

Pritzker and Lightfoot encouraged businesses to have employees work from home when possible and to support them as much as possible.

Such “social distancing” is needed to stop people from catching and spreading coronavirus, Pritzker said. He implored Illinoisans to “reduce social contact” and think about their “responsibilities to the most vulnerable among us.”

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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