Newspaper: The Evening Sentinel

Date: April 4, 1979

Title: No Boom at Bars

Author: Lisa Lilienthal


Some people turned to alcohol to relieve their anxieties about Three Mile Island, but some bars closed during the crisis.

"Things have picked up today," said an employee of a suburban Harrisburg bar. "But we're the only ones around who are still open."

The employee, who declined to be identified, said all the bars in Lower Allen Township were closed Monday.

"I know with one of them, the employees refused to come in," she said. "But here we're very loyal."

The Gingerbread Man bars in Mechanicsburg, Carlisle and Harrisburg were closed Sunday and Monday, according to district manager Barry Cassell, who himself had left the area.

On Friday night, he said, business was as normal, but by Saturday it had decreased.

"Most people were either leaving or scared," he said. "They weren't worrying about going to a bar, anyhow."

The Carlisle bar reopened Tuesday and the Mechanicsburg and two Harrisburg bars will open today.

"In our Chambersburg bar," Cassell said, "we didn't shut down and business increased because of people who relocated there."

Things have been quiet at Wonderful Wanda's Warehouse, Carlisle Pike, which has no television in the bar area.

Located in the Crossgates Inn, the bar-restaurant is losing business because local residents have left and out-of-town visitors aren't coming, according to manager Richard Cable.

"It's like the effect of Legionnaire's Disease had in Philadelphia," Cable said. "People will be afraid to come in unless someone stands up and says it's safe or unsafe."

And among the small, subdued crowds that do come in, Cable said, Three Mile Island is the main topic of conversation.

IN CARLISLE, the Walnut Bottom Tavern was doing a brisk business Sunday, despite fears at the time that the nuclear accident might worsen.

"I don't know if it's because of Three Mile Island or not," said owner Connie Ruby, "But we are busy whenever there's a crisis or when there's bad weather…"

"You would think people would save their money and wait to leave if they had to, but instead they're at my place, drinking, talking about it, eating."

Although Walnut Bottom Tavern patrons discussed the situation, Ruby said the atmosphere was convivial.

"The people that came in here were really brave," she said. "If they have to evacuate, they will-but not until the experts tell them to."

At Alfie McDuffs, business has been about the same, according to manager Keith Miller.

"People talk about Three Mile Island," he said, "but they don't make an issue of it."

MEANWHILE, the situation had no significant effect on Cumberland County liquor stores, according to B. Earl C. Betts, acting director of state stores.

According to an employee in the MJ Carlisle Mall store, there has been a moderate increase in sales, mostly in those to local bars.

"We do a heavy business with the bars," he said. "And I think their business has picked up."

The employee, who wanted to remain anonymous, attributes the increase to visitors from the Harrisburg area.

"But you name a reason," he said, "and people will drink."