City DopeNews

Athens-Clarke County Provides Meals, Cracks Down on Crowded Bars

Football fans packed into downtown bars the weekend of the Auburn game. Credit: Whitley Carpenter.

Athens-Clarke County continues to crack down on crowding at downtown student bars, issuing six citations for violating capacity limits the weekend of Sept. 27 and four more the weekend of Oct. 4, Manager Blaine Williams told ACC commissioners at a work session last week. Overall, police have made 674 bar checks.

“If you’d like to know who broke the law, I’m glad to tell you,” Williams said, listing off Silver Dollar, Cloud Bar, the Rowdy Goose, General Beauregard’s, Club Genesis, Wonder Bar, Moonshine, On the Rocks, Cloud (again), Soundtrack, Bad Moon, Saki Mama, Bourbon Street and Bar South. Those bars received either a warning or a citation.

“We are pursuing this to the full extent of what we’re allowed to in the governor’s [COVID- 19 emergency] order,” Williams said during an update on ACC’s coronavirus response. Overall, most bars are in compliance, and most of the problems are outside on the sidewalk, he said. But after two citations, local officials can shut down the bar for the duration of the pandemic.

An additional 28 police officers are patrolling downtown, and they’ve handed out almost 5,000 masks and 14 citations for violating the local mask ordinance. “The governor’s order is very explicit. It’s a verbal warning or a warning. You offer a mask, and if the person puts it on, that’s the end of it,” Williams said. “It’s only when folks are obstinate and refuse to put on a mask that a citation is written.”

Commissioner Melissa Link wondered if ACC could hire part-time code enforcement officers or ask UGA police to help, because ACCPD is overtaxed. “We’re putting in lots and lots of overtime basically babysitting folks who know what the rules are but refuse to follow them,” she said.

In addition to the temporary closure of College Square, ACC is setting up “parklets” on West Washington Street where bar customers can congregate outside. “We want to get more people out of the bars and outside,” Williams said. 

Working with the Athens Community Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program, ACC has used federal CARES Act funds to distribute 13,000 meals to about 700 residents. Starting later this month, the Rotary Club and Georgia Grown will be distributing meat and produce baskets free to people enrolled in the Athens Eats Together program and available for purchase by others. Another food program, through ACTION Inc., has served 276 individuals. The Athens Area Diaper Bank has distributed 51,000 diapers to 1,077 families. Family Promise, formerly known as the Interfaith Hospitality Network, has helped 14 families that were homeless or facing eviction. 

In addition, the ACC-Winterville Joint Development Authority is accepting applications from small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees for a second round of grants and loans through Oct. 27. 

The county has also hired Gustavo Rodriguez-Zaccaro as its first workforce development coordinator, heading up the new Athens Community Corps program, which will provide job training for 10 residents through public-works projects while they earn full-time wages and benefits.  

Since ACC boosted wi-fi signals at local community centers like Lay Park, more Clarke County School District students are taking advantage of the free internet access—177 in late September, up from 78 at the beginning of the month. Playgrounds and basketball courts at public parks have reopened, with signs posted about the risks, and local youth-sports leagues are now allowed to play scrimmages, though not games against out-of-town teams. Leisure Services’ after-school programming has restarted, as well.

Also reopen—sort of—are the ACC and Winterville libraries. They’re offering “grab and go” service where small numbers of masked patrons will be allowed inside for brief periods of time during limited hours to pick out books. The libraries continue to offer curbside pickup for books placed on hold online.