March 17 has all the ingredients for a combustible social scene: ridiculous amounts of alcohol, a town full of stumbling drunks, and a family-friendly event taking place during the pinnacle of the debauchery. With the Thursday night San Luis Obispo farmers market and St. Patrick’s Day coinciding this year, there’s the potential for a ruckus—and the SLO Police Department is preparing for the green beer and Irish whiskey-fueled madness.
“St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally seen as a day where people go out, drink, and indulge,” said Lt. Keith Storton. “All the bars open early, and by 8 a.m. we usually have first arrests.
“Farmers market has traditionally been a family event,” he added. “We don’t expect things to get out of hand with St. Patrick’s Day, but we will have an additional police presence just in case. Certainly we want people to have a good time, but we don’t want people to drink to the point of where they can’t care for themselves.”
Responsible drinking, however, hasn’t been SLO’s strong suit. According to police reports, there’s been a steady increase in the number of people getting piss-face sloshed and arrested on St. Patrick’s Day over the
years. In 2010, 29 people were arrested in SLO during the unofficial drinking holiday, mostly for public intoxication.
This go-around, as a result of the previous years of intoxicated insanity, the SLOPD will be at maximum deployment in an effort to minimize drunken disturbances and public hammeredness. The SLO Safety Enhancement Zone will also be in effect city-wide from 12:01 a.m. on March 17 until 7 a.m. on March 18, which means fines will be doubled for possession of open containers or consumption of alcoholic beverages in public areas, holding a gathering where underage persons consume alcohol, excessive noise, possession of dangerous and deadly weapons, and urinating in public.
Many downtown bars, such as McCarthy’s Irish Pub, SLO’s undisputed heavyweight champion of St. Patrick’s Day, are taking it upon themselves to prevent problems before they start. McCarthy’s head of security will be roaming the town and coordinating with other bars’ doormen and police in an attempt to identify the inebriated and offer them a better ride out of downtown than the back of a paddy wagon.