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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Bar closing time debate — and confusion surrounding it — heating up in Tuscaloosa

CW / Natalie Teat
A member of the City Council previously suggested closing bars earlier to address public safety concerns.

During last Tuesday’s Tuscaloosa City Council meeting, president Kip Tyner said he had received “exactly 408” emails from concerned students who believed the council would be voting to close bars at midnight each night to make the Strip safer.  

Tyner and other councilors emphasized that no such proposal would be voted on that night, nor did the council have any other bar-related legislation to vote on yet.  

Tyner pointed to the @barstoolalabama and @bamaachicks Instagram accounts, whose July 25 post warned students of a vote that night and encouraged them to contact city councilors, as a possible catalyst for the emails he received.  

The confusion surrounding the July 25 meeting is the latest of its kind in recent weeks as the city has considered possible legislation affecting bars. 

On June 27, the Tuscaloosa City Council passed a moratorium on new bars in response to an ongoing city police shortage.  

Stephanie Taylor, spokesperson for the Tuscaloosa Police Department, said that as of July 31, TPD was 33 officers short of its full staff of 289 sworn officers. 

Taylor said that while TPD is always at least slightly short officers, the department first became 30 officers short in late 2020 or early 2021. She noted that some other agencies offer better pay plans, benefits, state retirement and other perks.  

At the time of the moratorium’s passing, Tyner told WBRC that the moratorium was not ideal and that the majority of the council was likely supportive of closing bars earlier as an alternative. 

Several weeks later on July 18, the City Council Administrative and Policy Committee met to discuss the possibility of closing bars earlier.  

Noting that a few Tuscaloosa residents were in attendance, committee chairperson and former TPD captain John Faile said he believed there was a misunderstanding about the committee’s purpose in meeting that day.  

Faile clarified that the City Council was not voting on the issue that night a move Tyner had to repeat a week later. 

Faile then voiced concerns about public safety in the city, saying it was one of the largest issues facing Tuscaloosa. To reduce the stress on the police, Faile suggested that bars close at midnight Monday-Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday-Saturday with possibly an extra hour on game day weekends.

Faile said that dedicating extra police resources to the Strip each night deprives the rest of Tuscaloosa of “its share” of police resources.  

“Putting a police officer on every corner will not fix this problem,” Faile said. 

Tyner later told The Crimson White that the January shooting death of 23-year-old mother Jamea Harris on the Strip, which made national news, was also something the council was considering in its discussions.  

“We can’t wait for another life lost or people injured in some manner,” Faile said at the meeting. 

Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley weighed in on behalf of TPD at the July 18 meeting, saying the department’s biggest problem is the let-out periods when every bar closes at one time. 

He added that after bars close in the morning, up to 3,700 people may be let out onto the Strip or surrounding areas at once. After this, he said it may take as long as 60-80 minutes for his officers to clear the streets.  

To alleviate this stress, some have suggested staggering bar closing times; however, Mayor Walt Maddox said at the meeting that this would require “enabling legislation” by the state legislature. 

Two business owners also voiced their concerns at the meeting. Chief among them were the fears that closing bars earlier would cause significant financial loss, cause layoff of student workers or push parties to neighborhoods. 

“We want to see if we can do these other alternatives and see if they start working before we go to drastic measures that are going to hurt our pocketbooks, as well as yours,” said Michael Musgrove, a local landlord and bar investor, at the meeting. 

After the meeting, Tyner said that as of right now, the council mostly seems to support closing bars earlier on Fridays only. Tyner also said that he spoke with several bar owners who were open to the idea of a 2 a.m. closing time on Fridays.  

Faile said the council has done everything it could to help TPD with its police shortage, including raises and giving officers police vehicles to take home after their first year of service. The council also recently approved retention and referral bonuses for TPD officers. 

Still, he said he believes more police officers on the Strip won’t fix the problem, which he said is caused by people from outside Tuscaloosa coming to the Strip, not students. He said closing bars earlier would discourage ill-intentioned people from outside Tuscaloosa from coming into the city at night. 

“Before I brought this up, nobody was discussing it,” Faile said of the public safety concerns on the Strip. “This is something that needs to be discussed.” 

Both councilors encouraged students to attend City Council meetings to voice their concerns. Alternatively, Tyner said students could write short, personalized emails to councilors.  

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