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Local Bars Expect ‘Business As Usual’ Over State Patty’s

Editor’s Note: Onward State does not endorse State Patty’s partying this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. This post simply reflects the yearly tradition and its festivities.

As THON concluded last Sunday, students and State College residents started preparing for the “weekend between THON and spring break,” better known as State Patty’s.

State Patty’s began as a student-run holiday back in 2007 as a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with friends because it usually fell during spring break. In recent years, the celebration, along with the crime and arrests that have gone hand-in-hand with the debauchery, has taken a sharp decline. Still, Penn Staters have kept the tradition alive.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials remain cautious about celebrations in State College. The State College Police Department released its annual State Patty’s Day warning, while some officials worry coronavirus cases may spike due to celebrations. Local businesses, especially bars that have famously been at the center of the holiday, expect business as usual this weekend.

“I’ll be honest, I’m disconnected from the student population,” Cafe 210 West owner JR Mangan said. “Is it even happening?”

Towards the middle of the 2010s, local bar owners noticed a downward trend in business during the holiday. It started in 2014 when Penn State started offering bars money to close down during the weekend. Despite those notions, bars garner a lot of attention from residents and the media alike during the holiday.

“It’s honestly not a bar thing anymore. It’s more of a private party thing,” Lion’s Den owner Chris Rosengrant said.

During its peak about 10 years ago, State Patty’s was treated like a football weekend when it came to the bar scene, according to owners. When crime started to go up, the bars were the first thing the community looked at to help quell the problem.

“The bars have always kind of been a scapegoat,” Rosengrant said.

When State College began putting restrictions on bars, that’s when the demand started to drop. In the eyes of Curtis Shulman, director of operations at Hotel State College and Bill Pickle’s Tap Room, who owns and operates multiple establishments in downtown State College, the restrictions became less about businesses like his own.

“The borough’s efforts to deter are based on what happens outside of our four walls,” Shulman said. “It leads to this weird intersection of the local economy being affected and the destruction outside the actual bar scene.”

Shulman, Rosengrant, and Mangan all have faith in the way they run their businesses, especially on big weekends like State Patty’s Day and football games.

“If you think about it, the bars are businesses run by adults that are professionally trained and careful when it comes to alcohol consumption,” Rosengrant said. “When things go private and no one is there to regulate that consumption, that’s when it becomes an issue.”

Some said the holiday has gained such notoriety that it has become less about how the Penn State students celebrate, but more about how those visiting from out of town observe the holiday.

“Penn State students are mostly well-behaved, respectful, and know how the town operates,” Shulman said. “It’s some of the people that come from outside of town that make their own rules and pose challenges.”

To help limit visitors in the past, Penn State put restrictions on the number of guests you could have in your dorm along with other things. The annual warning put out by the State College Police Department outline things such as not inviting any guests to your house or apartment over the weekend.

The new wrinkle in all of this is the coronavirus pandemic. On top of usual extra policing that occurs on the weekend, borough and state guidelines still restrict gatherings larger than 10 people and encourage social distancing. For local bar owners, they expect business as usual in the coronavirus era.

“This year is going to be weird because of all the coronavirus restrictions upon us,” Rosengrant said.

Most bars can only operate at 50% capacity due to the coronavirus mitigation efforts from the state.

“Since we have limited capacity, we’re at full capacity almost every weekend anyway,” Shulman said. “The extra volume doesn’t really help us.”

Shulman said that means most people will be pushed to celebrate at private residences, making that the way of celebrating the weekend. With lack of space at bars and all the coronavirus restrictions in place, the issue of gatherings that break restrictions may be more common this State Patty’s.

“I just hope everyone stays safe this weekend,” Rosengrant said.

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About the Author

Connor Donohue

Connor is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He hails from the great state of New Jersey and is proud of it. Lover of the greatest city in the world, New York City, he strongly dislikes the city of Philadelphia and will not hesitate to tell you that. He's also been cursed as a Penn State fan since birth. If you want to call him a bum or maybe go out on a date with him, follow him on twitter @ConnorDonohue00 or email him at [email protected]

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