With the A-Day weekend crowds more than two weeks in the past, a cooler approach is taken to minimize violence while keeping the cash deals alive.
From town hall to bartenders, almost everyone has recently said that productive discussions are taking place that would lead to appropriate crime-fighting solutions while maintaining thriving entertainment areas.
However, it is not known where to go from here.
“If you have any good ideas, bring them to us,” District 4 city councilor Lee Busby told local bar and shop owners last week. “I lay awake about it at night and don’t know the answer.
“In fact, I’m not even entirely sure I know the problem as I suspect the problem has multiple dimensions.”
In a conversation that is expected to continue during Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council’s Administrative and Policy Committee, local bar and restaurant owners have said that this problem has multiple dimensions, some of which may never arise again.
And here, less than a month before an A-Day weekend with police responding to 271 calls across the city, it’s too early to come up with the best solutions.
“Everyone is still learning what happened that night,” said Brandon Owens, executive director of the Alabama Beverage Licensees Association. “It was just a perfect storm of things to get the Strip to pack.
“I don’t think we’ll ever see a Magic City Classic again in our lives during a COVID on A-Day weekend.”
A couple of wild nights
Concerns arose after the A-Day weekend, which began for the Tuscaloosa Police Department long before the annual battle began.
The Thursday before the A-Day game saw an officer-in-charge shootout on Skyland Boulevard East and a hatchet attack on McFarland Boulevard on Friday.
But on the evening of April 17th, after the crowds gathered for the University of Alabama’s annual A-Day Intra-Squad scrimmage hit the Strip, there were scores of visitors coming after attending the annual Magic came from Birmingham City Classic match between Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University.
Those crowds got big – so big that Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley ordered several patrol cars to be brought in to disperse the crowds, which had grown to overwhelming and potentially dangerous sizes – but in the end no one was injured.
“Fortunately, we haven’t had any (violent) incidents on the Strip,” Blankley said last month, “but it could have ended very differently.”
But when these incidents occurred within weeks of a shooting in a Temerson Square bar, injuring five people and arresting two for attempted murder, city officials are now trying to act.
CONNECTED::After arrests on A-Day weekend, those responsible at Tuscaloosa are considering limiting bar hours and alcohol sales
A week after the passionate talk about limiting bar hours, reducing alcohol-serving times, and the idea of shutting down businesses not worth the tax dollars spent on protecting them, the conversations take on a more productive tone.
“We want to take a holistic approach – not an approach between us and them – to solve this problem because we are all together,” said Walt Maddox, Mayor of Tuscaloosa.
A recent meeting between City Hall and the business owners along the Strip created some consensus.
Owens was part of that meeting and said that everyone involved apparently wanted the same thing: a safer entertainment area without hurting people who have invested so much in their own businesses.
And what exactly that is still has to be found.
“I think it’s too early,” Owens said of possible answers. “I think we’re all still at the stage where we’re talking about solutions.”
Some things that everyone seems to agree on are improved lighting and a reduction in foliage to allow for greater lines of sight.
However, other measures such as shortening the opening times of the bar or closing the streets to vehicle traffic do not meet with such enthusiasm.
“We are all committed to improving the safety and wellbeing of all guests and visitors,” said Jay Jarrett, co-owner of the Twelve25 bar and nightclub on the Strip. “But I don’t agree with the reduction in working hours.”
These measures would have a direct impact on the roughly 50 people Twelve25 employs either full or part time, from college students to adults with families.
But that conversation with the mayor and city officials was productive, Jarrett said.
“It’s been a productive start,” said Jarrett. “It brought up some ideas that I think would help any business.”
Things like improving communication between the bar and the business owners through a new or reformed business association that could provide real-time updates between these businesses about bad actors or other issues.
Away from campus
Beyond the Strip, bar owners are also open to ideas on how to improve conditions. The problem is, they said, there isn’t one solution that would work for everyone.
Cliff Clark, the owner of the now-closed Roxy’s Bar, which was shot at last month, said he understands that everyone wants crime out of these areas, but hesitates to believe the bars can do it.
However, he agrees that some changes need to be made to meet the anticipated crowd of college football fans returning to Bryant Denny Stadium this fall.
“I think everyone needs to realize that bar opening times aren’t a crime,” said Clark, who is transforming Roxy’s into a bar called “Decades,” a club that focuses on music and themes that range from the 1980s to 2000s. “We talk a lot about a lot of things, but there is usually no tracking of a lot of things.
“We just have to keep talking and find solutions. There is no answer to anything. “
And outside the Temerson Square and Strip boroughs is The Alcove, where owner Chad Smith said a better police presence would go further than anything suggested.
And while he, too, agrees that A-Day created this “perfect storm” of conditions that is unlikely to repeat itself, he is concerned that those who want bars and similar businesses are moving further and further away from the University’s campus Alabama to be removed, so will Take this opportunity to advance your goals.
This is unfair for everyone involved if some business owners are gradually decoupling from the insolvency of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I hope we can all take a step back here and look at a bigger picture and find some level-headed solutions, rather than just making more regulations and policy choices that target a particular industry,” said Smith, who also owns. Loosa Brews right on University Boulevard in downtown. “It’s just a busy time in everyone’s life, and we don’t need to make it more stressful by challenging more business owners after trying to get back on our feet after a really, really tough year.”
Reach Jason Morton at email@example.com.