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Bar owners, Stillwater City Council react to influx of students

  • Updated
March 30, 2020 city council meeting

File photo. March 30, 2020 City Council Meeting

With students returning to campus this past weekend, there has been an influx of visitors to Stillwaters bars on Washington Street.


Due to the large number of eager students, some bar owners are struggling to uphold social distancing and mask requirements.This was documented by The O’Colly in a series of videos showing a packed bar with little to no social distancing and almost no one wearing a mask.


On Tuesday, Mayor William Joyce said he was preparing additional emergency orders to limit bar capacity to 50%, and require customers to be seated to be served. Joyce said the details were still being ironed out, but predicted the document would be released on Tuesday afternoon.


As of 8 p.m on Tuesday, the document had not been released on the city's website.


“We are doing our best to try to figure out how to keep everybody safe and deal with the ever-changing conditions with this pandemic,” Joyce said.


Currently, there are no penalties associated with individuals who fail to follow guidelines off-campus. Instead, the responsibility falls on businesses to post the signage and enforce the rules.


“We are seeing people comply with the mask ordinance as it is written. It’s not everybody but even if you were writing tickets you wouldn’t get 100% compliance,” Joyce said. “It’s a cost/benefit problem. How many more people do we think we can get to wear masks and how many resources is it going to require to get there?”


Councilor Alane Zannotti said she wants to commend those who are following the mandates.


“There's some peer pressure and you almost feel silly walking into a business if you don’t have a mask on so that’s good,” Zannotti said. “There is a social media site called Shop Safe Stillwater where people are reporting businesses that are supporting mask ordinances and those who are not. That is another way to enforce this ordinance because it can hurt your business if you aren’t supporting it.”


Stonewall and College Bar owner Javier Cervantes said in an email that his establishments will do what is right and deal with whatever happens.


“Sometimes it sucks to do the right thing. Like wearing a mask or limiting the number of paying customers but it’s the right thing to do,” Cervantes said. “We are not even close to our usual sales numbers and when you have bills to pay, kids to feed and employees needing work, it could be a choice of doing the right thing or your business possibly closing for good.”


Vice Mayor Pat Darlington wants students to know that they can have fun in a reasonable way.


“What affects one person affects every person. This idea of interdependence is important, Darlington said. “It is an unreasonable time so it does call us to step back and think about our impact on the rest of the community.”


Stillwater City Council is closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases, as well as hospital availability to indicate whether more restrictions will be necessary.