Queen City Nerve

Charlotte's Cultural Pulse

Surviving St. Paddy’s Day
When the clock strikes amateur hour

By Justin Zalewski

March 14, 2019

Justin Zalewski (Photo by Tim Baker)

Time for a history lesson: St. Patrick’s Day — or Feast Day of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland — is a religious celebration-turned-cultural-shitshow.

Ol’ Saint Pat was actually born in Roman Britain in the late fourth century. That’s right, he was not born in Ireland. He was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. Celebrations of Saint Patrick commemorated the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. Legend has it that St. Patrick waved his mighty staff and rid Ireland of all the snakes from the Emerald Isle. March 17 is now a global celebration of Irish culture. Parades are held all across the globe, during which folks drink Guinness, Jameson or whatever the hell they want to as long as it’s got green food dye in it.

Charlotte has its own mid-March tradition that’s grown over two decades to become colloquially known as the world’s largest pub crawl, making Charlotte a sureshot destination for St. Paddy’s shenanigans. This year’s Rich & Bennett’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl will be the 19th iteration, with more than 20,000 people expected to sprawl through Uptown wearing green shirts, consuming the streets like a tsunami of drunken whirling dervishes. Hoards of bros and Beckys adorned in green get-ups will come to worship St. Patrick at the altar, though some of whom will change loyalties later and pray to a porcelain god.

As a bartender in Charlotte for the past 12 years, I’ve seen more than my share of tomfoolery. I remember my first year working St. Paddy’s in Charlotte like it was yesterday; a scene that can only be described as a mob of zombies from the walking dead with a thirst for green alcohol. I watched from atop the EpiCentre as thousands of similarly dressed hooligans descended upon Trade Street like an ominous green cloud looking to evaporate all the alcohol. All walks of life transform into unrecognizable creatures in the name of St. Patrick. I’ve seen your run-of-the-mill public vomiting. I’ve seen people use dining rooms as restrooms. I’ve seen humans mating in plain sight like dogs. It’s quite a day, indeed.

I am here for you in your most amateur of all amateur hours! I’d like to share some tips on how to make this day a memorable one — and a survivable one for the hardworking soldiers behind the bar. Most service industry folks strap themselves in for shifts that last over 15 hours in some cases (go to page 22 to read all about the effects that has on someone’s mental capacity). Have some compassion for the bar staff, because they’re the only ones equipped and ready to serve your every St. Paddy’s Day need.

Let’s start with the most important piece of preparation that will help set you up for success: breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It not only gives you the much-needed fuel to start your day, but when you’re going to be drinking all day, it serves as your sponge of a safety net.

H2O is good for you. Make sure you consume as much water as you can. Have at least one glass of water per hour. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, so pace yourself. The last thing you want to do is end up a puddle of humanity on the side of an Uptown street before lunchtime.

Come prepared with cash money! Cash is so much faster for a bartender-patron transaction. If not using cash to start your tab, do not close this tab out until you are ready to move on to the next bar.

Use the buddy system. Too often I’ve seen late in the day a poor girl not know what planet she is on because she lost her friends and then followed her impaired instincts. Trust me, the predators of the world smell blood in the water and prey on unsuspecting sheep that have strayed from the herd. Be safe, and keep your friends safe. Or just don’t be a predator and let people enjoy their lives without the fear of being preyed upon during a celebration.

Follow this simple advice and I can promise that you will enjoy your day to the fullest. Or you can do the opposite and not eat all day, pregame, sprint out of the gates with five Irish Car Bombs and three shots of Jameson. Hell, why don’t you even bring that new person you’ve been seeing that you want to get more serious with. That will end nicely.
May the luck of the Irish be with you, and remember, always tip your bartenders!

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