City issues three-week ban against gatherings of 25 or more

CW+%2F+Andrew+Littlejohn

CW / Andrew Littlejohn

Rebecca Griesbach | @rebach97 and Andrew Littlejohn | @Andrewlittlej19

In response to an early morning address by Gov. Kay Ivey, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox announced new guidelines that will affect most local restaurants, bars and breweries until April 6.

“We are in unprecedented times that require unprecedented actions,” Maddox said in a press conference on Tuesday. “I think we’ve countered chaos with calm courage. Moving forward, we will not be perfect, but we will be relentless in protecting our families and our community.”

Maddox’s address came on the heels of three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tuscaloosa, as well as an early morning address by Gov. Ivey, which recommended against the gathering of 25 or more people “where a six-foot distance could not be maintained.” In the address, which was aimed toward Tuscaloosa, Walker, Blount, St. Clair and Shelby counties, Ivey recommended against any on-site consumption of food or drink at all restaurants, bars and breweries for one week.

Maddox said the City’s priority is “saving lives, reducing sickness and shortening the duration of fear.” This means that, effective Tuesday, March 17, at 5 p.m. until April 6, gatherings of more than 25 people will be prohibited. Nursing homes will immediately close to visitors, and effective Wednesday, March 18, all senior citizen activity centers and private schools, preschools and daycare centers with more than 12 or more children will also close. 

The city will extend the cancellation of permits and events from April 6 to April 30, bringing cancelled events to a total of nearly 300. The city will also cancel or reschedule Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre shows and the Mayor’s Cup, which was originally set for April 25. More details will be revealed in the near future. 

City hall will also continue to be open but will limit access and entry points. Incident command, which was activated on Feb. 28, will be moved to the Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre. 

Maddox said the City is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to roll out an economic relief plan for small businesses within the next 10 to 14 days. 

“What we want to do is roll out something that’s going to be effective for them, and we’re beginning that process now,” Maddox said. 

While the physical buildings will be closed, many of these businesses will continue to provide curbside service. Maddox urged Tuscaloosa residents to take advantage of these services by ordering out. 

“My heart is heavy,” Maddox said. “I cannot imagine what these bar owners and restaurant owners are dealing with. This is the moment where we have to come together.”

In addition to local relief and community support, Maddox said foresight is key to quelling the economic effects of COVID-19. 

“The best thing we can do for restaurants and bars is to end this crisis,” he said. “We need to address this as a country, as a state, as a municipality, right now.”