At the Red Mill in Pittston this weekend, it will be difficult not to notice the difference a year makes.
At this time last year, people stood in line to make their way into the crowded downtown bar during the city’s St. Patrick’s Parade — the only such parade held in the area in 2020, just before the first wave of shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, owner Rob Johnson has prepared for a lack of parade crowds as the parade committee decided it would not be safe to hold a 2021 parade this weekend.
“We’re resigned to the fact that under the circumstances … it’s not the time for it,” he said. “Things were not going to turn around quick enough.”
Johnson said the bar and restaurant, which has expanded in recent years to include a large outdoor patio and bar, is usually “at capacity” on Pittston’s parade day.
“We would move the furniture around,” he said, stating the day would usually see a “few hundred” people coming in and out of the bar.
This year, Johnson said he fully understands the need to cancel the parade and limit capacity within restaurants and other businesses.
The Red Mill was a popular spot in 2020 when the Pittston parade’s earlier date allowed it to be one of the few in the world to be held as planned. The Scranton and Wilkes-Barre parades, traditionally held a week later, were cancelled as coronavirus cases climbed and states began to implement shutdowns and stay-at-home orders.
The 2021 parade went virtual, with parade organizers like chairperson Sarah Donahue asking people to submit their photos of past parades or participate in a virtual Leprechaun race.
Donahue said the committee was “devastated” to cancel the 2021 parade.
“We feel equally bad for our good friends who own and work at downtown businesses,” Donahue said. “They have felt some of the toughest impacts of the pandemic, and we are cognizant that no parade day is a huge blow to them.”
Johnson said The Red Mill has managed well over the last few months to keep business steady. They are open four days a week and are looking forward to warmer days when the patio may seem more inviting for customers.
“We’re looking forward to that 60 degree day,” Johnson said. “Our outdoor area will provide the next bump in business.”
Donahue encouraged residents and those missing the festivities of parade day to consider supporting Pittston’s businesses through in-person or takeout options.
“We have always said that our parade is so successful because of the support of our local community,” Donahue said. “We need them, now they need us. You don’t need a parade day to patronize our local businesses.”