Wrigleyville’s rowdy Christmas bar crawl returns after pandemic hiatus

Wrigleyville’s Clark Street was chock-full of revelers decked out in Christmas gear for TBOX’s 25th anniversary – or the Twelve Bars of Christmas – the annual neighborhood pub crawl that made a comeback this year after being canceled l last year due to the pandemic.

While holiday sweaters, scarves and Santa hats were in abundance, many in the crowd moved without face coverings, despite a new variant of the coronavirus spreading around the world and a steady rise in infections and of deaths in Illinois.

Gabi Wallace, 26, attended the holiday tour with friends and said she wasn’t particularly worried.

“I feel like everyone is vaccinated or has had COVID,” said Wallace, who said she had been vaccinated.

Gabi Wallace, left, chats on Clark Street on Saturday during the TBOX pub crawl in Wrigleyville.
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

People who have been vaccinated against the virus are much less likely to catch it and develop severe symptoms, but can still pass the virus to others if they are infected. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also recommends getting the vaccine even if you’ve already contracted COVID-19 and recovered. Although rare, re-infections are possible and a person could pass the virus on to others, according to the health protection agency.

About 65% of Cook County residents had been fully vaccinated on Saturday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. State health officials reported 49,668 new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois over the past week and 266 deaths since December 3.

Health officials reported on Tuesday that the state’s first case of the Omicron variant had been identified in Chicago.

Ben Howlett, center, reacts as a fight breaks out outside a bar on Clark Street in Wrigleyville on Saturday.

Ben Howlett, center, reacts as a fight breaks out outside a bar on Clark Street in Wrigleyville on Saturday.
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Not everyone went on the front crawl without a mask, and some have found creative ways to incorporate a face covering into their party outfit.

Ben Howlett incorporated his mask into his outfit, sporting a Christmas-themed costume and a red mask with a Santa beard stuck to it.

“I love the festivities, everyone is doing their best,” Howlett said of the front crawl as he stood in line at Happy Camper.

Feet in front of him, cheers suddenly erupted as a scuffle broke out between two festively dressed revelers.

Beth Montgomery, 55, and a group of friends traveled from the suburbs to Wrigleyville for “fun and brotherhood,” said Montgomery and her group headed to their fifth bar of the day with the intention of go out “all night”.

Beth Montgomery, right, lines up with friends outside a Clark Street bar on Saturday in Wrigleyville.

Beth Montgomery, right, lines up with friends outside a Clark Street bar on Saturday in Wrigleyville.
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Bar patrons weren’t required to wear masks indoors while drinking or standing in line, but most establishments did require them at the door.

Adam Hanzalik, an employee of The Irish Oak, at 3511 N. Clark St., said COVID remains a concern for him and the rest of the staff.

Hanzalik said Irish Oak bar staff would keep their faces covered.

“It’s as normal as it gets,” Hanzalik said. “Earlier I was talking to someone and I said, ‘TBOX is back, baby. “”


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