Cue the Bagpipes. Alderman Says Parade Permit Will Likely be Granted

City has accepted the parade committee's event, but hasn't yet issued a permit

By BJ Lutz and Mary Ann Ahern
|  Friday, Feb 17, 2012  |  Updated 6:43 PM CDT
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It may be time to get the bagpipes ready and save the date. A south side alderman said he believes the city will ultimately grant a permit to resurrect the South Side Irish Parade on March 11.

"I think it's going to happen, yeah," said Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) Friday after a meeting with parade organizers.

"I want the South Side Irish Parade that I grew up with back. I don't want what we've had the last few years," said O'Shea. "If the various city departments and the Chicago Police Department and the parade committee continue to work with my office, I'm hopeful that we can get there."

The parade marched down Western Avenue for 31 consecutive years before being canceled in 2009. That year, more than 300,000 revelers lined the streets and 54 people were arrested for public drinking and fighting

Organizers are attempting to resurrect the parade, but O'Shea and the city have requested a detailed security plan that limits the drinking. O'Shea also wants organizers to reimburse the city for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in city services and police protection.

"We had a great, great meeting. The city came prepared. We came prepared. We worked through a lot of the details. I think the group, as a whole, is anxious and excited to bring back the parade," said parade Chief Joe Connelly.

Connelly said the Chicago Police Department will enforce a "zero tolerance" policy along the parade route. Metra, he said, will prohibit commuters from carrying or consuming alcohol. The Southwest Conference of Mayors will assist with traffic control around the parade route's borders, and a private security firm -- a first for any Chicago parade -- will prohibit alcohol from being carried into the route.

He said there will be a "significant presence" of security along Western Avenue the day of the parade.

Organizers said they're waiting on word from the city about the services fee. Once that's paid the city will issue the permit and organizers can, in turn, reach out to sponsors that are waiting in the wings.

"We need an answer soon. It's getting late. The Irish are known to procrastinate, but this is a little ridiculous," said organizer Bill Figel, adding that about $80,000 has been raised so far.

About 25 people attended Friday's meeting, including representatives from Metra, Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, the police department, the mayor's office, the Department of Streets and Sanitation and the Office of Special Events.

Friday's meeting was one of several since last August. A separate security meeting took place with police Supt. Garry McCarthy and his staff earlier this week. Another meeting will be held Feb. 27.

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