OPINION: Bars should not close, but should enforce the guidelines

A patron at the Southeastern Bar poses for a photo in Auburn, Ala. (Courtesy of Giana Han)A patron at the Southeastern Bar poses for a photo in Auburn, Ala. (Courtesy of Giana Han)

Stephen Duke, Correspondent 

On Monday morning, news came out of Tuscaloosa that as of 5 p.m. that day, all bars in the city will be forced to close for two weeks. That means lost revenue for those businesses in the city, and it forces bartenders to have to draw unemployment for two weeks. While bars aren’t open, restaurants can still serve alcohol, but patrons can’t eat or drink at the bar areas while there.

It got me thinking, even though the number of cases at JSU are still relatively low (129, according to the Jacksonville State COVID-19 Task Force, which puts this information on the school’s website) compared to the 531 cases at Alabama, should bars in Jacksonville have the same fate? Like with the school reopening issue, we will look at the issue from both ends of the spectrum, then conclude with my view.

I’ll start with the idea that they should be faced with a similar fate as bars in Tuscaloosa. The idea that the university brings in a hefty amount of revenue to the city when classes are in session, I believe, is partially fueled by those students that are of age spending money at those establishments. If Jacksonville mayor Johnny Smith made a similar mandate for the bars within the city limits, it would not only take away the jobs of several (even if temporary), but also the money that would be flowing into the city budget.

However, there could be some positives to doing so. One of the biggest comes from the images we saw on the news from Tuscaloosa a couple weeks ago: large crowds at these bars with a lack of social distancing. Could we see that in our bars in town? It’s possible. If so, that could potentially cause a spike in cases on campus. Closing bars would be one way to prevent that. I see the argument from those who may say that there’s still the possibility of one getting the virus at Walmart, but I would respond with the fact that, for the most part, folks are wearing their masks in Walmart. Even if they get in your vicinity with the virus, with a mask on, the risk of catching it is low, but not zero. Not following social distancing guidelines or mask ordinances at bars is an entirely different story. I can see where those who think closing bars is a good idea.

Now let’s look at this from the idea of not closing the bars. One negative of not closing, as we mentioned above, is that a spike in cases would more than likely occur. A spike in cases on campus would more than likely mean we’d see restrictions similar to those at Alabama- that is, no student events for two weeks, as well as no visitors. At that point, we would only be going to class (more than likely online) and cooped up in dorms or apartments, resulting in added stress to students. Not closing bars would cause a whirlwind of consequences, especially if they are not enforcing the guidelines.

However, there is some good to keeping bars in town open. One of the biggest, obviously, being pumping revenue into the city’s economy. Money is a big factor in many decisions these days, and I think this is a big factor as to why the mayor would not make the decision to close bars unless it was absolutely necessary. While I don’t think that’d be the only factor, it would definitely play a role.

After taking all of this into consideration, I believe the best option is to leave bars open for now, as long as those in charge and the bartenders make sure patrons are following the guidelines. I don’t personally go to bars, but if all who do play their part, we can continue to get a hold of this virus, hopefully slowing the spread. We must be vigilant in taking all the necessary precautions so that we can get back to normal, and that normal, for many college students, is back in the bar having a drink with friends.

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