In June, the Tuscaloosa City Council voted 5-2 to institute a moratorium on bars within the city limits, citing police shortages and concerns about calls from The Strip, the nightlife district just down the street from the University of Alabama (UA)’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Strip is home to several bars frequented by UA students, such as Rounders and the Bear Trap. According to reports, Tuscaloosa is home to 39 bars and gastropubs, but the vast majority are concentrated across six city blocks.
The moratorium places a hold on all new bar applications until the end of 2023.
Tuscaloosa Police Department (TPD) chief Brent Blankley told the press last month that his police force was stretched thin and officers were working mandated overtime to patrol The Strip on weekends.
TPD already opened a new police precinct near The Strip with the help of the UA Police Department in February following the shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris, which took place on The Strip. Police arrested UA basketball player Darius Miles on capital murder charges in response to the shooting. Officials also charged 20-year-old Michael Lynn Davis.
After UA’s annual A-Day game in April, TPD faced overcrowding on The Strip. Rumors spread about shootings in the entertainment district that night, although officials confirmed no shots were fired.
According to reports, the Tuscaloosa City Council is now considering establishing a mandatory closing time for vendors that sell alcohol.
City Councilman John Faile introduced the idea in Tuesday’s Administration Committee meeting. He suggested that the bars should be required to close at midnight or even as early as 11:30 p.m., even if that negatively impacts revenue.
Currently, bars and lounges in Tuscaloosa can stay open until 2 a.m. on Saturdays and weeknights and by 2:45 a.m. on Fridays. On Sundays, bars must already close by 10:15 p.m.
Faile suggested allowing the bars to stay open longer following home Crimson Tide football games.
However, Faile’s suggestion is not yet a formal ordinance or up for a vote.
At the same meeting, Blankley said he was unsure whether or not an earlier closing time would help. Instead, he insisted the major concern for his department is when bars close simultaneously, releasing crowds as large as 3,700 people into the streets.
A bar manager on The Strip told ABC 33/40 that her bar would lose as much as $10,000 per night on the weekend if it is forced to close at midnight. This could also result in fewer hours and, therefore, less pay for cooks, security guards and other workers.
An owner of another bar told Tuscaloosanews that losing two hours a night could equate to 26 business days over the course of a year and suggested that his bar and just three others could stand to lose as much as $3 million in total annual revenue.
According to Neighborhood Scout, Tuscaloosa has a crime rate of 44.36 per 1,000 residents, one of the highest crime rates in America. One’s chance of becoming a victim of either a violent or property crime in Tuscaloosa is 1 in 23.
However, the UA area is not one of the city’s most crime-ridden areas. These include several neighborhoods in West Tuscaloosa as well as the Buena Vista neighborhood just east of UA.
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