NEWARK, NJ – A popular New Jersey spring rite is the series of St. Patrick’s Day parades across the state. Revelers crowd cheek to cheek to bagpipes as the flow of Guinness and whiskey brings rivers of cash to local bars and restaurants.

But for the second straight year, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic last March means local businesses in Newark and across the state are still waiting for a revival in public finances.

“I have a decline in sales of around 80 percent. I usually make around 200 to 300 dinners on regular St. Patrick’s Day, and that doesn’t include all drinks. Typically, I’ll be paying $ 15,000 to $ 20,000 in revenue, ”said Rob Lynch, owner of Kilkenny Alehouse in downtown Newark, which recently reopened on a limited schedule after completely closing last September. “There is simply no one there. We couldn’t have known beforehand whether we were COVID-safe. I just hope things go back to normal by fall. “

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That sense of tacit and fragile hope for post-pandemic economic recovery was found on the Newark St. Patrick’s Day parade route, which was canceled for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While the accelerated pace of vaccinations offers some psychological comfort, there has been palpable frustration that medical advancement against the disease has not yet turned into a financial boon.

“What the city wants is always more than the state. We have to close at 10 p.m. while other cities nearby can stay open until 2 a.m. It’s killing us, ”said Mike Nagle, co-owner of McGovern’s Tavern, noting the decision some communities had made to stick with the less favorable state easing restrictions on bars and restaurants last month.

“When I hear the term ‘social distancing’ I think that life is no longer social. I wish that term would go away and that goes beyond bars. A stimulus check won’t do anything for us. We rely on Rutgers, NJIT and Prudential as our bread and butter. We have just completed a major renovation to invest in our future and the future of Newark. But until these students and workers come back, the carpet will be pulled out from under us, “he said.

Brian McGovern, a family member who started the bar and restaurant, pondered how to repack the place.

“It will take anyone vaccinated to get rid of this virus,” said McGovern, an Elizabeth firefighter. “I have been vaccinated, I feel good and I will not hurt anyone. But unless everyone else is doing the same, I don’t know when we’ll get to the point where people won’t have to worry anymore. We all have to be smart. At the same time, there was no way I would come here this year to show my support and my Irish pride. We need that now more than ever. “

The need to fight the virus was identified in different ways from bar to half-filled bar.

“We learn day by day. You have to get around these hurdles, ”said Ricardo Pozo from behind a screen at Jimenez Tobacco, whose Cuban-American family was happy to make their cigar and cocktail lounge Gaelic for the day. “The parade starts right outside our door and is weird without it. Small steps where people see that we are following the cleanup and distancing guidelines will get us through by building trust. There is no perfect book on how to be a parent, and there is no perfect book on how to keep a business going during a pandemic. So you just keep going “

Gary LaMotta, related to the late Jake LaMotta, whose boxing career was immortalized in the famous Martin Scorsese film “Raging Bull,” noted how Krug’s Tavern, a down neck icon who has been in his family since the 1930s, tries to stop the bleeding.

“Getting up to 50% capacity this Friday is what it is, but the earlier closing time dampens everything,” said LaMotta. “Our life has changed. There’s nothing no one can do about that when people get out there is a chance they can catch it. “

“I’ve been a dock worker for 17 years. We haven’t been able to stop at the docks in the port or the land comes to a standstill. I caught COVID a few weeks ago then my family caught it. I didn’t get it from work, I got it from life, ”added LaMotta. “We are all fine now. For all of us, it’s a waiting game to see how comfortable people will be. I see light at the end of the tunnel. We are americans. We survive. “

Newark officials could not be reached to comment on the earlier closure times.

“I’ve been turned down six times by the state for scholarships, and the business we got late at night from restaurant workers is still done because of the town’s earlier closing time,” said Marianne Downar, owner of the Deep Inn on Pulaski Street Plans, Write to state, county, and city officials to highlight their plight. “People have to make contacts again. Getting stuck in the house drives everyone crazy. “

Some might say it’s crazy to get to downtown Newark while the densely populated city is still in the middle of the pandemic. But Daryl Scott took the train from his home in South Orange to Kilkenny with his wife Kanya and young son Rex on St. Patrick’s Day for lunch and beer.

“My wife and I got our first vaccine shot, so we’re much more comfortable getting out now,” said Scott, whose young suburban family is one of the groups that sought to attract downtown Newark business owners during the city’s revitalization. “So many of our friends haven’t left the house in a year. I can’t sit still. My father owned a waste metal warehouse here. I’ve come to Newark all my damn life, but I haven’t been back in 35 years. Today is the day. Now is the time. We need human contact. We need hope. “