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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Honest Pint bartender Cody Love stands behind an empty bar on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The Honest Pint made the decision to stay open for carryout service only on St. Patrick's Day, normally the busiest day of the year for the bar.

St. Patrick's Day is normally the biggest night of the year for the Honest Pint, but this one proved unlucky for the local Irish pub, as well as watering holes everywhere.

"We have decided to go down to carryout and takeout only," said Jess Richards, the Honest Pint bar manager. "We've suspended our dine-in service, but we'll continue to do carryout orders from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m."

People who wanted to order food were allowed into the place on Patten Parkway to have a drink while they waited, but they couldn't plan to hang around and party, she said.

"The CDC is saying we shouldn't have more than 10 people in a place at a time," Richards said. "It's scary out there right now."

Many other local restaurants and bars planned to offer to-go orders and limit dining room and food service, but the Leapin' Leprechaun on Market Street stayed open to bring in the green. Vince Chamberlain turned up in a plaid kilt to enjoy some fish and chips at the bar.

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St. Patrick's Day blues

"I'm Scotch-Irish," he said. "This is my holiday."

Chamberlain wasn't too worried about the coronavirus because he recently tested negative for it, he said. A barber, he was exposed to the virus by a client recently back from Italy. He was tested after he developed cold symptoms, and quarantined with his girlfriend, but their tests came back negative. Now he's just worried about his business.

"I usually see 10 to 18 people a day," he said. "Now I'm down to two to four."

At Hutton & Smith on M.L. King Boulevard, the plan for St. Patrick's Day was to pour beer to-go from 4 to 8 p.m. and then call it a night, said Dylan Moore, the manager of the tap room.

"We're doing to-go beer only — kegs, cans, growler fills," he said.

On Tuesday evening, bartender Mat Crider said a steady stream of people were coming by and "being very generous with their tips.

"It's been busier than we expected," he said.

Most of Chattanooga's major attractions, including the Tennessee Aquarium, Ruby Falls and Rock City, have closed indefinitely and movie theaters and restaurants are also shutting down or limiting their operations to only takeout.

The hardest part of cutting back so much at a time when people are normally out drinking, spending and tipping is telling the staff who rely on that revenue to pay their bills, Richards said.

"Right now we just don't have work for everyone," she said. "We're having to cut back hours and shifts, but we're making sure everyone is getting paid and helping them file for unemployment despite not being terminated. It's devastating to us all."

At the Bitter Alibi on Houston Street, the restaurant shifted to carryout-only two days ago, said Nelson Taylor, the general manager.

"We're not allowing anyone in our establishment. We finally made that call two days ago," he said. "We were trying to do limited and social distancing, but you see what's going on around the world. We don't want to be part of the problem."

At Bitter Alibi, they're using the downtime to do some work to renovate the place a little, and asking employees to come help out, Taylor said.

"We've turned it into a remodeling time for the building and invited employees to come in and do side projects and make some extra money," he said.

Contact Mary Fortune at mfortune@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.

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