ALBANY, N.Y. - Businesses and officials in Albany are gearing up for the city's 63rd annual Saint Patrick's Day parade Saturday hoping to have a problem-free event.
The parade is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. The route goes from Quail Street and Central Avenue, travels east merging with Washington Avenue, and turns at City Hall and travels east on State Street to Pearl Street.
Officials changed the parade route in 2012, avoiding North Pearl Street, in hope that bypassing the bars will reduce the chaos surrounding the parade.
The owner of the Pearl Street Pub, Chris Pratt, says he lost more than about 30 percent of his business since the route change.
"We would love for it to end down here. This seems to be the heart of the entertainment district. It would be great, but I can definitely see the concern when you bring children down here on parade day," says Pratt.
Pratt tells NEWS10 the downtown area has taken a hit in the last couple of years with several bars and restaurants closing, but he's optimistic big events like the parade can help turn things around.
"It's a good day for us to showcase some of the things we have going on down here. People that don't necessarily come downtown will come downtown on parade day and check us out," says Pratt.
Last year's parade was dubbed a 'success' for the city, maintaining a more family-friendly atmosphere. Police presence was increased to make sure the events of the 2011 Saint Patrick's Day parade were avoided.
On the day of the 2011 Saint Patrick's Day parade, hundreds of area college students got out of control during a kegs and eggs party, causing thousands of dollars in damage to the Pine Hills neighborhood in Albany. A mob mentality took over the neighborhood as students turned violent. Dozens of college students destroyed property and even tried to flip over a car. Six people were arrested following the event.
"We have a lot of floats, a lot of young people involved in the parade and we're not going to tolerate kegs and eggs. We're not going to tolerate what took place a couple of years ago," says Mayor Jennings.
The Executive Director of the Downtown Bid, Georgette Steffens says the changes to the parade have had a positive impact.
"It gives a little more of a family oriented feel. We have the bar owners opening later," says Steffens.
Also, parade goers are no longer allowed to bring their own adult beverages or have open canisters. While some bar owners remain critical of that decision, Mayor Jerry Jennings says there's a purpose to it.
"We're going to be consistent. I think it's very important for people to know that we're all working together, the colleges, my security people, their security people, my police department and we expect people to behave," Jennings said. "Just enjoy yourself, enjoy the day. We have a great tradition here. I don't want it marred by any incidents or parties that are out of control and we want people to cooperate."
Local colleges and universities have also taken steps to prevent similar outbursts. They have also moved spring break to coincide with the Saint Patrick's Day parade, hoping fewer students will be around.
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