Mayor addresses St. Patrick’s Day celebrations concerns

Mayor Van Johnson speaks of the city’s jurisdiction over private versus publicly owned spaces

click to enlarge Mayor Van Johnson speaks with press at weekly conference. - PHOTO BY BRANDY SIMPKINS
Photo by Brandy Simpkins
Mayor Van Johnson speaks with press at weekly conference.
Despite the City of Savannah’s moratorium of city event permits, anticipation still arises for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Mayor Van Johnson discussed the city’s plans to implement any further restrictions on business operations for the upcoming holiday.

“As it is right now all options remain on the table,” Johnson said. “We reserve the right and opportunity to change as conditions change.”

Celebrations held within public right-of-ways and businesses lie under the jurisdiction of the City of Savannah while private businesses have the freedom to decide what takes place on their properties.

“The City of Savannah and cities across the state can regulate public spaces, public buildings, public right-of-ways,” Johnson said. “The governor’s orders say that essentially private spaces and businesses can choose to address issues like masking as they want, but there are limitations about social distancing.”

Johnson said that overflow from private businesses could potentially cause celebrators to spill over into public right-of-ways and he is concerned about the city’s ability to regulate this anticipated large capacity.

“The problem is that our police department may not have the ability to actually enforce that part,” he said. “That’s what makes it confusing, because when issues come up, it’s not usually the Georgia State Patrol that handles them— it’s usually the Savannah Police that are responding to them.” Johnson said city staff will monitor activity this upcoming weekend as they have done this past weekend.

“There will be an expanded number of city staff on the streets; some that you will identify and some that you won’t,” Johnson said.

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