Amid controversy over Atlanta hosting the National Basketball Association All-Star game amid the pandemic, Brookhaven restaurants and bars will be permitted to stay open later during the weekend of the game.
The Brookhaven City Council Feb. 23 approved an extension of alcohol pouring hours for bars and restaurants from March 4 through March 8. The game will be held at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena on March 7. Brookhaven is home to the practice facility for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.
Alan Goodman from the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce said the extension could have a positive effect for the bar and restaurant economy, which has been suffering during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has already asked fans not to travel to Atlanta for the game and for bars not to host events.
“Under normal circumstances we’d be grateful for the opportunity to host the NBA All-Star game, but this isn’t a typical year,” Bottoms tweeted on Feb. 16. “I’ve shared my concerns w/ @NBA & @ATLHawks & agree this is a made-for-TV event only & people shouldn’t travel to Atlanta to party.”
Brookhaven City Councilmember Joe Gebbia, who requested the ordinance on behalf of the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber is prepared to make sure bars and restaurants are compliant with COVID-19 protocols over the game weekend. He said the Chamber would continue to supply bars and restaurants with personal protective equipment such as gloves, sanitizers, and masks.
“There’s no willy-nilly on this as far as being lax,” Gebbia said. “It’s just a great opportunity. There are constraints that come with it.”
Brookhaven City Councilmember Linley Jones, who was the only one vote against the extension, cited the Atlanta mayor’s stance in her own opposition. She said she worried the extension could make Brookhaven an “epicenter” for the virus.
“Mayor Bottoms … has asked people not to come to Atlanta for the All-Star game and has asked people not to gather for the All-Star game and not to throw parties,” Jones said. “I want to acknowledge that when we’re talking about extended hours of service, we’re talking about the bars and restaurants having All-Star parties.”
Jones said she didn’t want to risk a spike in cases so close to the “finish line” of the pandemic.
“I support the industry,” she said. “But this particular ask, I think, is too much, too soon.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of spreading COVID-19 increases in restaurants and bar settings, where a distance of 6 feet apart may be difficult to maintain.
The Chamber previously planned to hand out free personal protective equipment kits to Brookhaven businesses on Feb. 13, but the event was canceled due to inclement weather.