Police officers and firefighters are braced for a busy weekend in Buckhead and citywide as Atlanta controversially hosts the National Basketball Association All-Star Game amid the pandemic.

The game is scheduled for Sunday, March 7 at State Farm Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is urging fans to stay home and watch the game on TV to avoid spreading the coronavirus, but there is every sign that bars, restaurants and hotels will draw crowds. The neighboring city of Brookhaven has extended its alcohol-pouring hours for bars and restaurants for the weekend to capitalize on the business.

Maj. Andrew Senzer, commander of the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 2 precinct.

Maj. Andrew Senzer, the commander of the Buckhead’s Zone 2 Atlanta Police Department precinct, said at a recent community meeting that the Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association tells APD that “they received a huge bump [in hotel bookings] ahead of this weekend, so we’re anticipating a very busy weekend in the city.” 

Buckhead, Midtown and Downtown are expected to be the busiest spots, Senzer told Neighborhood Planning Unit B at its March 2 meeting.

APD has canceled officers’ days off and scheduled them for double shifts, Senzer said, “to maintain a real robust contingency of officers within the zone.” 

“There shouldn’t be any issues that pop up that we can’t handle in-house,” said Senzer, but noted that other police agencies are offering resources, too. 

APD officers will focus on the neighborhoods’ areas with many bars, clubs and lounges. A citywide team of APD License and Permit Unit officers and Atlanta Fire Rescue Department fire marshals will be available to check businesses for compliance with licenses, permits and state pandemic orders, Senzer said.

Capt. Kendale Mitchell of Roswell Road’s Fire Station 21 said firefighters are bracing as well. 

“We, too, are anticipating the all star weekend,” Mitchell said. “I know the call has been out for people to stay out of Atlanta, but as Major Senzer said, the hotels are filling up.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.