I moved to Chicago from Boston in the fall of 2014 and St. Patrick’s Day was one of the things that stood out as very different to me. I jokingly told my family in Utah and friends in Boston that Chicago doesn’t really celebrate a single day, it’s more like a solid month of wearing green, drinking green beer, dying the river green and running green themed races.
Well, it’s Saturday March 14, 2020, the day the Chicago River is supposed to be dyed green and thousands flock to Grant Park for a day of drinking green beer in the name of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. A lot of those people pass through Wrigleyville, more than a few of them stay a while. In other words, this is generally the craziest day in Wrigleyville this side of the Cubs being in the playoffs.
It will surprise no one that things look a lot different this year:
The river is not green today and thousands aren’t crowded in downtown to see it. The number of events cancelled rises daily, and it’s stunning to consider the implications for restaurant owners and the people they employ.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a few dozen young people decked out in green and bar hopping in Wrigleyville right now. Murphy’s Bleachers seems to be having a good day and the Brickhouse Tavern looked like they had a small crowd for a bit, but the general feel of the neighborhood as I walked passed historic Wrigley Field to get a cup of coffee seemed off, and it wasn’t just the lack of crowds.
The Family Friendly St. Patrick’s Day celebration that was supposed to kick off the Gallagher Way spring season tomorrow has quietly been cancelled, mere days after I wrote about it being announced the first time. Generally if the temperature is around 40 and it’s not wet outside that lovely plot of grass just to the west of Wrigley Field has visitors just tossing a ball around or enjoying it not being frigid outside. Today it was empty:
The Starbucks at Gallagher Way is eerily quiet. Normally at 11 am on a Saturday you’d have to wait in line and have a hard time getting a seat. Today almost every seat was up for grabs. At one point it seemed like there were more workers than visitors in the shop, although that may have just been a function of what time I got there.
And then there’s the Cubs Store. The two-story store that takes up about a third of the retail space in the Cubs office building is temporarily closed. They have a sign up that directs fans to make their purchases at the Cubs store on Michigan Avenue.
It doesn’t surprise me that the Cubs would consolidate a limited workforce at a time when all the experts say people should be practicing social distancing, but there was something stark about seeing the team’s largest retail space near it’s gem of a historic landmark closed. It made me think of all the Wrigley Field tours that won’t happen in March and April, all the movie nights or farmer’s markets that will be postponed on Gallagher Way. It made me think of all the people who work those events, tour guides and bartenders pouring over-priced beer that people like me willingly buy to drink it in the shadow of one of our nation’s greatest cathedral for sports. All of them, temporarily closed, with no timeline for returning.
The world is on pause right now. Baseball is on pause right now. The Cubs are temporarily closed, even as a few dozen people try desperately to pretend it’s a normal St. Patrick’s Saturday in Wrigleyville.