This year St. Patrick's Day falls on a Saturday, and local pubs and police departments are preparing for busy Irish holiday celebrations.
While bar patrons drink green beer and eat corned beef and cabbage at places like First Round Draft near The Islands neighborhood, the Gilbert Police Department will be teaming up with neighboring departments as the East Valley DUI Task Force.
The task force will have anywhere from 40-80 officers from 10-12 agencies participating, according to Michael Hegarty, spokesman for the Governor's Office of Community and Highway Safety.
Police will be doing a "saturation patrol" in which all agencies gather at a command post where they will be briefed and then the police will go out in the surrounding areas, taking Driving Under the Influence suspects back to the command post for testing and possible charging.
"This means people can't just avoid one corner like with a checkpoint," Mr. Hegarty said. "They'll be all over the East Valley."
Command posts in the East Valley this year will be at the corner of Elliot Road and Arizona Avenue in Chandler Friday night and at Alma School Road and Southern Avenue in Mesa on Saturday night.
Gilbert police will have four officers participating with Mesa, which will supply 10 officers, and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, contributing two or three officers.
The task force will be working from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday in the East Valley.
Last year, Gilbert police made 42 DUI arrests during the St. Patrick's Day weekend.
The legal blood alcohol concentration limit for drivers in Arizona is .08.
According to the Web site of Chandler lawyer Christopher Winchell, the number of drinks per hour a person can have and not break the legal limit differs based on sex, weight, metabolism, type of drink and what's been ingested, therefore making it difficult to assess a blood alcohol concentration with a formula.
The calculator on the site estimated that a 130-pound woman drinking three standard beers in one hour would have a .06 blood alcohol concentration and therefore be under the limit.
The DUI laws include drugs and can be applied if a person has no alcohol in their system, but is "impair to the slightest degree" while driving, according to the laws stated on the Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety's Web site.
Drivers with a first-offence DUI face a minimum of 10 days in jail and $1,250 in fees.
Any driver with a blood alcohol concentration of more than .15 can be charged with an extreme DUI, face 30 days in jail and about $2,500 in fees for a first offence.
Mr. Hegarty said St. Patrick's Day is one of the high profile holidays for police.
"For St. Patrick's Day I expect (the task force) to be at full capacity," Mr. Hegarty said.
Gilbert Police Sgt. Andrew Duncan said the police department would prefer that people celebrating St. Patrick's Day would not drink and drive and that the police department would not make arrests.
"We want to remind people to enjoy themselves," Mr. Hegarty said. "But if they plan on drinking, plan on having a ride home - either a designated driver or a cab."
The Town of Gilbert has nothing planned for St. Patrick's Day, but bars around Gilbert have events organized for the day for residents to enjoy.
Fox and Hound Pub and Grille at the corner of Cooper and Baseline roads near Stonehenge, Arrowpoint and Cooper Ranch neighborhoods is having an all-day festival, featuring bag-pipe players, Irish dancing and contests throughout the day.
Dan Kerr, the department manager for Fox and Hound, said they are also being pro-active about avoiding customers drinking too much and then driving.
"We have a four-drink log," Mr. Kerr said. "We have a deal where we monitor anyone that's had more than four drinks, and afterward start talking to them, making sure they have a ride home and if not, helping them get one."
First Round Draft's General Manager Jesse Latshaw said the bar has teamed up with Discount Cab for St. Patrick's Day, and has installed a button under the bar that when pushed, will alert the cab company that a bar patron needs a ride home.
The family-owned bar will be decorated for the day, with a karaoke host, drink specials and special food prepared by the bar's new chef, Tim Shneidmiller.
Nikki Brennan is a bartender at the bar and will be working St. Patrick's Day. She said she's excited for it because she likes to be busy and thinks it will be a fun day.
"St. Patrick's Day is like the Christmas of bars like this," she said.
Gilbert residents Bill Ellenburg and Kim Merritt are regulars at First Round Draft and said they will be visiting First Round Draft on St. Patrick's Day.
"I've been coming here for five years now," Mr. Ellenburg said. "It's a tradition."
By Emily Murphy, Independent Newspapers