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Coronavirus Puts A Damper On Montana's St. Patrick's Day Celebrations

The novel coronavirus outbreak made for a Montana St. Patrick’s Day like few others in state history. Several counties this week instituted aggressive steps to reduce large gatherings in the name of public health.

Montanans adjusted their expectations this year and dialed it back a notch.

As Butte’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade goes, apparently so goes the M&M Bar and Cafe. This year’s legendary parade was canceled due to concerns of the new coronavirus; coincidentally the first time that’s happened since the 1918 flu pandemic.

The M&M’s doors were also locked tight. The bar originally opened in 1890 and until the early 2000s was known for a century-long stretch of never closing its doors. Owner Selina Pankovich posted on the bar’s Facebook page Monday that the decision to close was not easy and will have a huge financial impact on her business.

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Pankovich added that, "I am worried about my hometown, our elderly population, my family and friends, my M&M family and their families, and our healthcare system."

The bar and café is a St. Patty’s fixture in Butte, where Irish roots run deep.

About 120 miles northwest of the Mining City, the holiday was just as muted.

"Like everyone else we're having to break it down hour by hour and day by day," says Josh Martell, general manager of Missoula’s Tamarack Brewing Company. Tamarack can now only offer customers curbside pickup service. Sit-down dining inside is currently off-limits.

"In our location we don’t have designated curbside parking, so we’re just instructing people to give us a shout when they get here, tell us what they’re driving, slow down to 20 miles an hour, roll the window down and we’ll throw it in."

Martell’s kidding around, but to keep the transactions speedy the Tamarack’s grab and go customers are encouraged to pay in advance when they call in their order.

Helena’s Windbag Saloon posted on social media Tuesday that all its employees are on paid leave this week. The Windbag’s owners opted to forego takeout and delivery services, opting instead to give all perishable food to employees.

Back in Butte, M&M owner Selina Pankovich noted on Facebook that, "There has never been a better time to live and breathe our motto, 'We are Butte Tough'."

She encourages everyone to support local businesses whenever possible during this emerging health crisis, saying, "We are going to need you in order to get back on our feet."

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.