Pub opens doors, faces swift backlash

Los Angeles Times
Published: 3/23/2020 2:13:43 PM

The yelling and complaining outside the Griffins of Kinsale Irish pub in South Pasadena might have only seemed louder than the partying going on inside.

But bar owner Joseph Griffin definitely heard it on St. Patrick’s Day.

That night, he had committed what is for many now a cardinal sin: He opened his pub on the city’s iconic Mission Street right smack in the middle of the great coronavirus shutdown.

Some angry residents screamed at bar patrons and posted the video on Twitter. Others lambasted Griffin on Facebook.

The “quarantine shaming” was on.

“I’ve been here for eight years,” Griffin said inside his bar two days later. “To have people call me and my business out online so viciously – in some cases, to have people screaming at me and the employees of this bar – was incredible.”

Since March 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom and local officials, including L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, have ramped up a series of efforts to shut down nonessential businesses to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Though many people feeling like they need a stiff drink during these trying times might disagree, bars were considered nonessential. But if Griffin, a father of 11, felt alone in the midst of the backlash, he was far from it.

Even if officials, including law enforcement, aren’t ready or able to crack down on everyone violating the shutdown orders, there’s always an abundance of online cops ready to be deputized to do the honors.

From California to Florida, the shaming has taken several forms – against bars, gyms, a chamber of commerce shindig promoted on Instagram. Individuals who have participated in large gatherings have also ended up on the pokey end of social media barbs.

Last week, CBS Evening News posted a 50-second clip on Twitter of daring – and possibly inebriated – college students flocking to Miami Beach for spring break and vowing, one after another, not to let the coronavirus rain on their party.

“If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying,” one declared.

The post received more than 900,000 views and hundreds of comments from Twitter users calling the spring breakers everything from “selfish” to “stupid” for disregarding COVID-19 safety precautions such as social distancing and staying home.

Eventually, mayors from Miami Beach to Fort Lauderdale closed their beaches even though Florida’s governor did not.

In Griffin’s case, he said he didn’t know his pub was supposed to be closed when he opened it Tuesday at 7 a.m. The day before, the city of South Pasadena had issued a closure of all bars, but Griffin said that he wasn’t aware of the order and that no one from the city reached out.

He said he was careful to advise customers to make only takeout or delivery orders. He also asked people not to sit down and eat food on the premises, Griffin said. But some did anyway. There was also live music playing in the pub.

By around 7 p.m., South Pasadena police, tipped off by angry residents, showed up to Griffins of Kinsale for the third time – and on this visit, they were accompanied by someone from the L.A. County Department of Public Health. The pub was closed on what Griffin called his “most important night of the year.”

The pub owner is convinced the complaints came from other businesses.But the reaction on social media suggests the anger was broader than that.

South Pasadena resident Steve Zikman said that as he passed the pub, he was incensed by the crowd, the noise – and what he took as a lack of concern in the face of a pandemic that was causing mass layoffs and fear.

Zikman channeled his outrage on a local, private Facebook page, but not before calling South Pasadena police to report the pub.

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