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Tuscaloosa considers bar moratorium to ease strain on police

Tuscaloosa City Council chambers.{p}{/p}
Tuscaloosa City Council chambers.

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The city of Tuscaloosa has drafted an ordinance to issue a bar moratorium, meaning no new bars in the city until the end of 2023. If passed, it could go into effect immediately. The reason behind the ordinance, is to give the Tuscaloosa Police Department some relief.

Police Chief Brent Blankley said he has 32 vacancies in his department, although about 15 are in training. He said his force is stretched thin, and more bars won't help.

"We understand business people want to make money but it can't come at the risk of public safety." said Blankley. "Our concern is that adding more bars is going to stretch our officer even more thin."

Blankley said his officers patrolling The Strip on the weekends, are working mandated overtime. He said enough is enough.

My personal opinion is that I don't think we need any more bars.

Councilman Norman Crow raised concerns over denying all bars, without individual consideration.

"If somebody wanted to open a bar in District 3, other than everyone at the table cheering, I don't know why we wouldn't have a conversation about that," explained Norman.

City Attorney Scott Holmes responded to Crow's concerns by explaining geographical restrictions can be harder to obtain. A restriction like that, would need to go through the zoning and planning commision, and would take longer to draft and adopt.

If approved, the suspension would only affect future bar applications, not ones already submitted. However, the city voted to deny one license at the council meeting, and approve another. A restaurant owner in Tuscaloosa applied to become a gastropub and was denied. At Tuesday night's council meeting he requested to become a bar or tavern, and was denied again.

"Also dealing with food right now, the cost of food is very high, not making much profit, spending more on labor to stay open."

One business proposed hiring off duty officers for extra security.

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"We do not allow off-duty officers to work in bars. When we look at it, it puts them in a bad environment, something we aren't interested in," said Blankley.

The city council will vote on the ordinance on June 27th.

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