RADFORD, VA. – On Friday night, leaders in Radford considered closing bars early amid other stricter COVID-19 regulations beyond what the state currently mandates.
They did it because there are coronavirus concerns as Radford University’s students prepare to return to campus.
But not all of council’s ideas stuck. Some are headed for a possible vote next week and others are sidelined for the time being.
Radford currently has a low COVID-19 rate, but there are fears of it increasing as the city’s population is about to double. Mayor David Horton said as students return from across the country to Radford University, now is the time to act.
“But this is a moment where we need to make a decision about what we can do as a community to see if there’s slight changes at the margins that keep us from having a bigger problem,” Horton said.
Council called the special meeting Friday to discuss stricter local COVID-19 regulations than the state. Chief among them was shifting last call from 2 a.m. to 10 p.m., an idea few liked.
Kelsey Jones owns BT’s, a local favorite and said if they close up early, students will head to frat houses and basements instead.
“This is not as even as much about business as it is about the safety and if you take away our ability to monitor what is going to happen anyway, they’re going to do it anyway, we all know college students,” Jones said.
The city also doesn’t know if they have the authority to do that, so they cut that and a few other ideas. The trimmed down regulations mirror the current state guidelines a little more, only going beyond by limiting most gatherings to 50 people and requiring face coverings.
Council originally considered criminal penalties for non-compliance, but settled on civil penalties instead.
“I think what we’re doing is localizing it so there’s a difference when a Radford officer comes up to you to talk about a state code that might be a violation versus something that’s been identified here in the city of Radford,” Horton said.
Some on council question why they even needed to do this at all. Horton said he’s glad they talked it out and while this is the current version, the next could change.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t consider other measures that might make sense depending on how things go, but at least we’ve had some of that discussion and we know where that might fit in based on where the numbers go and how the statistics are working,” Horton said.