Fans crowd Tuscaloosa bars before Alabama-Ohio State kickoff despite COVID-19

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Bars in Tuscaloosa had lines of people packed together Monday hours before kickoff of the College Football Playoff championship, which features Alabama and Ohio State. 

Face masks were scarce as well, although the Alabama state health officer renewed an order Dec. 9 that people "shall wear a mask" unless seated at a restaurant, eating or drinking. That same order limited groups to eight people and required 6 feet of separation between groups. 

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox issued a public service message last week urging compliance with COVID-19-related spacing rules during Monday's game, and police chief Brent Blankley reiterated that message on Monday.

People are seen outside a bar at the corner of University and 20st Avenue in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 11, 2021. (Photo: Emily Enfinger / Tuscaloosa News)

“The city of Tuscaloosa has something very special to celebrate this evening as Crimson Tide fans cheer on the team in the College Football Playoff National Championship,” Blankleysaid via social media. “TPD, (the University of Alabama Police Department) and the ABC Board are working together to ensure the safety of our community members.

“Cheer, celebrate and enjoy the success of our team, but please do so responsibly and safely. Roll Tide!”

While city officials urge compliance among bar and restaurant patrons, the owners of these businesses remain under coronavirus-related state mandates and regulations when it comes to those they let into their establishments.

According to the most recent order of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that was amended Oct. 29, bars and restaurants that do not offer seated dining must keep their crowds at no more than 50% capacity as determined by the state fire marshal and health department.

Additionally, all patrons – as well as employees – must wear some form of face covering at all times unless they are outside or seated while eating and drinking.

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