The Erin Express buses have been canceled for Saturday, but the participating bars will still be open during their respective business hours, organizers say.
“We hope to return to a level of normalcy soon, and look forward to rescheduling at the appropriate time," Brian P. Pawliczek said in a news release. He owns Cavanaugh’s Restaurant & Sports Bar along with his parents and runs Erin Express with the owners of the University City bar Smokey Joe’s.
Erin Express is a decades-long tradition in Philadelphia, a marathon where attendees cram onto school buses rotating among 17 bars to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. People wait all year for this multi-weekend event, and earlier this week Pawliczek had been adamant it would go on.
But since the bar had assured the public — in an ALL CAPS tweet — that the Erin Express was not canceled as recently as Wednesday afternoon, cases of the coronavirus have continued to climb in the region. Officials have discouraged any large gatherings in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Canceling the buses was an unanimous decision among the participating bars, Pawliczek said.
“What is today’s or last hour’s normal is no longer the norm," he wrote in an email. "When we talked on Tuesday at 6:15, I was on my way to the Flyers Game….the Sixers had a game on Weds and played. Now their seasons have been suspended. Schools are closing, Montgomery County. Everything has changed.”
The coronavirus has been spreading all week, and the situation is rapidly changing. Philadelphia has banned events with 1,000 or more people for the next month.
“It is crucial at this time that everyone in Philadelphia do their part to reduce the spread of this virus,” Philadelphia Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Thursday. “While they may seem inconvenient, these steps are vitally important to protect residents and visitors in our city.”
But with so much uncertainty, many people were still excited to show up to their favorite St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl. With the St. Patrick’s Day Parade canceled, it was one of the few big gatherings in the city to celebrate the holiday.
On Tuesday night, Pawliczek called the Erin Express plans “a fluid situation.”
Earlier this week, Pawliczek responded to questions about public health by saying he had hand sanitizer at Cavanaugh’s front door and people could bring their own. But in his news release, Pawliczek referenced the coronavirus as the reason for canceling the free buses.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Pawliczek wrote in an email. “If we can help with the Social Distancing and safety for all by cancelling the buses, by all means, let’s do that. Problem is people are still going to go out, and they are arriving on a Train or a Bus or an Uber or a Taxi…..who is cleaning them?”
At a Friday news conference, city Managing Director Brian Abernathy remained unhappy about the Erin Express. “It is an event that would not be helpful this weekend,” he said. "There is no reason to bar hop in the city.”