On November 10, 2020, Tuscaloosa‘s City Council approved the special events license for the University of Alabama‘s Kappa Delta sorority’s Farm Party. A last minute cancellation of the party due to concerns over health and safety was reported internationally.
The application for the Farm Party‘s party’s license had been made by Downtown Entertainment LLC.
An application for another such party came before the Council on August 24, 2021. The Kappa Alpha Theta sorority’s “Back to School Party” would take place at the same pastoral location as had been planned for the Farm Party. Once again Downtown Entertainment LLC had applied for the license.
As explained in the Franklin Stove Blog on November 11th, 2020, Downtown Entertainment LLC is part of “a cottage industry in T-Town that has served the University’s Greek community. It has involved everything from custom tee-shirts for parties to providing alcohol for events. In the case of the Farm Party it almost seemed as if the event was organized with a one-stop shopping service.”
In 2020, state, city and University of Alabama Covid orders mandated mask wearing, social distancing and occupancy limits.
By the summer of 2021, things had changed completely.
On May 3, 2021, Alabama‘s Governor Kay Ivy had announced the end of the latest COVID-19 public health order. She said that “Alabama is open, and we are moving forward.”
Al.com‘s Kyle Whitmire wrote that in August, 2021, Ivy had bemoaned the low rate of vaccinations in Alabama. But at the same time, he wrote, “the governor dismissed other measures she could take to slow the spread of the disease — incentive programs for new vaccinations, renewed mask mandates or social distancing requirements in public places. With an election less than a year away, Ivey seems more worried about opposition in the Republican primary than she is about the health and safety of her constituents.”
In August, 2021, the University of Alabama, in response to alarming, rising Covid infection numbers, required that face coverings be worn “indoors on campus, where and when distancing is not possible, regardless of vaccination status.” Covid vaccinations for University students were not mandatory. There was no such state or local mask mandate.
The idea that any kind of requirement of mask wearing and for vaccinations would absolutely prevent the community spread of Covid may have seemed questionable after a significant outbreak of Covid cases involving vaccinated students at Duke University took place in August, as reported by WRAL‘s Maggie Brown. The cases had been traced back to bars, restaurants and private homes. Whether masks were worn by the vaccinated students was not clear. But the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was of the opinion that “vaccination may make illness less severe for those who are vaccinated and still get sick.”
According to FOXNews‘ Ryan Gaydos, Louisiana State University (LSU) football fans will need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to attend a game in Baton Rouge. If vaccinated LSU students were to have had bayou parties, might they have be safer than unvaccinated University of Alabama students who were in a pasture near Tuscaloosa?
In August, 2021, the Patch‘s Ryan Grim reported that T-Town had seen the most Covid hospitalizations since January. Grim added, “But the speed and scope of transmission stands out as the most worrisome statistic, as Tuscaloosa went from nine total COVID-19 hospitalizations on July 14 to Monday’s 149. In the previous major surge, numbers show that it took DCH roughly eight months to match the same progression — from April 2020 to the following December.”
In August, 2021, the Associated Press ranked Alabama as fourth in the nation for new Covid cases.
The Thread‘s Meg Summers‘ reported on a local petition to Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and the City Council to “enact a city-wide mask mandate as hospitalizations and deaths from the Delta variant continue to climb.” Summers wrote:
Mayor Walt Maddox recently expressed his reticence to issue a mask mandate for the city, as enforcement of any mandate could prove difficult for local authorities.
“Can you imagine trying to enforce a mask ordinance and putting law enforcement in that extremely difficult position? There’s nothing but bad things that can happen,” Maddox said.
During the city of Tuscaloosa‘s Pre-Council meeting on August 24, 2021, there was very little discussion over the proposed Back to School Party.
That was in dramatic contrast to the lengthy discussion that had occurred concerning last year’s Farm Party.
Vincent Brown, Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer of the city’s Accounting and Finance Department, introduced the item about the Kappa Alpha Theta party that had been scheduled for the evening’s Council meeting. The gist of the discussion during the Pre-Council meeting over the granting of the license was essentially that having the party out on Joe Mallisham Parkway was preferable to the party being held in town.
Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley said that having the party in a pasture was better than it being held in Tuscaloosa’s Historic District. Council member Lee Busby, who represents the Historic District agreed, saying, “On balance, it’s probably a good thing.”
By the time of the Council meeting a few hours later, the applicant had asked that the the application for the special events license be withdrawn and the Council voted affirmatively on a motion doing so.
Resolution that was never voted on
The University of Alabama‘s Vice President for Student Life Myron Pope later made a statement that the off-campus event had not been sanctioned by the university.
The applicant’s request may have been related to this.
There are several more license requests involving Greek events, many of them on football weekends, that will be forthcoming, according to Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer Vincent Brown.