About Aggieville bars, I have a completely different idea: Take ‘em outside.
With the coronavirus pandemic, the operation of a bar has become extremely problematic. The premise of a bar -- getting people together in a confined space where they gradually wear down their own inhibitions -- is perfectly suited to transmit an airborne contagion.
In a college town like ours, the government is tying itself into knots figuring out what to do. Health officials generally want to restrict their operation so as to eliminate the chance of transmission. Bar owners, understandably, want to stay open to serve their customers and keep their businesses alive.
In some effort to compromise, the government has put in place capacity restrictions, then lifted them, then enacted time restrictions, and now is trying to regulate behavior. They say customers have to stay seated; they can’t belly-up to the bar or get up and dance. (Incidentally, my wife would probably say this is tailor-made for me, since swaying slightly while seated is my best chance of dancing without horrendously embarrassing myself. But that’s another story.)
The new rule immediately prompted plenty of Footloose references. It also prompted a lawyer to show up at the next County Commission meeting, talking about legal problems that the rules would cause. He didn’t threaten to sue, but, well, lawyers don’t show up for free just to entertain themselves.
How about we take this a different direction? Bars can operate, so long as they operate outside.
There are already some provisions in state law that allow people to carry drinks around in public under certain time and place limitations, basically so as to allow special events. And we should note that rules have been amended during the pandemic so as to allow for carryout cocktails, which of course were illegal before.
I’ve written before about how Aggieville could become a much more vibrant entertainment district if it could be blocked off so as to allow people to walk around with drinks, during certain hours. Lots of cities do this.
Why not try it now? One main problem with bars is that they operate indoors, in a confined space, where transmission of the virus is much, much more likely. In the outdoors, even a little bit of wind or other weather conditions mean that transmission rates plummet.
Sure, it would be hot. Sure, it could get cold. Sure, it might rain.
But where we’re headed otherwise is a lot more virus transmission, and probably the eventual shutdown of bars -- if not a more generalized lockdown anyway.
Isn’t it worth a try?