It is all hands on deck as local bar owners, the Alabama Beverage Control Board, and the Auburn Police Division work together to regulate the spread of COVID-19 within the Auburn community.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Auburn and across the state of Alabama, the Alabama Beverage Control Board has taken measures to do their best to promote public safety.
Dean Argo, the manager of government relations and communications for the ABC Board, said that the board has jurisdiction and strict authority over alcohol, from its manufacturing and production to its sales and consumption.
“We believe we have tremendous responsibility and authority over alcohol in the state of Alabama,” Argo said.
Currently, bars and restaurants in Auburn are allowed to remain open as long as each establishment desires. However, all service and sales of alcohol are prohibited after 11 p.m., and on-premise consumption of alcohol is prohibited after 11:30 p.m. These restrictions were passed unanimously at the ABC Boards’s emergency July 27 meeting.
“It’s not [as much] about controlling alcohol as it is about making people aware, because there is a contagious virus amongst the people of Alabama,” Argo said. “If we could remove alcohol from social patterns at a time that was reasonable then people would be a little bit more aware of that obligation to social distance.”
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The ABC Board has had overwhelmingly high compliance rates among its licensees across the state, Argo said. When asked specifically about the ABC’s involvement in Auburn — in light of the large crowds that gathered in early-to-mid-August, as shown in previous reporting by The Plainsman — Argo did nothing but rave about Auburn’s phenomenal compliance with the new order.
“The bars in Auburn, the restaurants in Auburn, the grocery stores in Auburn; everyone who deals with alcohol sales has been outstanding. We just can’t thank them enough. They are just doing an outstanding job,” he said.
The Auburn City Council on Aug. 27 passed additional measures to limit the transmission of COVID-19, furthering the the steps taken by the ABC Board to address provisions for bar and restaurant operations. The Council’s resolution highlights requirements for mask wearing when not consuming food or drink, social distancing, and operations suspends walk-up bar service, prohibiting the serving of alcoholic beverages to individuals not seated at either a table, counter or bar.
According to this resolution, violators of these provisions may be subjected to a $500 fine. The Auburn Police Division has been charged with enforcing this resolution.
APD Assistant Chief of Police Clarence Stewart said that since the resolution was passed, there hasn’t been a need to give any of the bars in Auburn a citation.
“We have our officers go by and actually go into the bars and establishments and look around and make sure they are in compliance,” Stewart said. “We still go out every night just watching to be sure everyone is in compliance, and it appears that they are.”
Prior to the resolution restricting indoor alcohol consumption to seated customers only, many bars in downtown Auburn such as Bourbon Street Bar, Southeastern Bar and 17-16 decided to voluntarily close their doors. Co-owner of Skybar Pat Grider explained his reasons for remaining open despite the trying financial times and strict regulations.
“We are now down to operating at about 10%,” Grider said. “I mean we’re doing what we are asked to do. So it’s been terrible in terms of business, but honestly we’re open purely because of our employees.”
Grider said he’s felt like he’s been constantly bobbing and weaving in order to keep up with the new regulations set in place.
“We’re trying, we’re doing everything we are told,” Grider said. “We are being asked to change the way that we are every two weeks and having to do something different and ... we have to, because we need to keep our staff — you know, that’s pretty much the honest truth.”
Grider and his employees are continuing to do their part by adapting to regulations and enforcing those regulations through monitoring music selection, use of social distancing markers, as well as reminding customers to wear masks when they are not consuming a beverage, Grider said.
Stewart said that enforcement of the bar and restaurant regulations put in place due to COVID-19 is going to continue to remain a priority for APD.
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