As the fall migration of students to College Station begins, Aggies typically look forward to house parties and going out to Northgate, but COVID-19 changed those plans.
While nightlife has remained popular as the first waves of students make their way to the city, many students are expressing concerns about the safety of continuing these outings as the population increases every day.
Geology junior Garrett Rosner said he doesn't think anyone should be going out to Northgate right now or for the foreseeable future, despite the tempting in-person social interactions that bars offer.
"I understand people wanting to go out after being stuck inside for the past few months, but going out right now is just going to make everything worse and I don’t think that it’s at all justified," Rosner said. “A social outlet is good for people, but I don’t think that going out to bars is necessary."
For political science senior Tommy Quinn, as long as establishments maintain COVID-19 guidelines, he said he has no problem visiting Northgate this fall.
"Restaurants across town have been open for weeks now and there is nothing inherently different about the ones on Northgate," Quinn said. "I'll follow whatever guidelines the bars and restaurants put in place. I'll wear a mask when needed and I won't go if I've got symptoms. I've been in town the whole summer and it seems like people are willing to follow the rules if the reward is a night on the ‘gate."
Editor’s Note: An individual does not have to have symptoms of COVID-19 to transmit the virus. According to the CDC, all individuals, including those without symptoms or known exposure to COVID-19, should practice social distancing and personal prevention strategies.
O'Bannon's Taphouse, one of the many establishments along University Drive, is ready for a return to normal, said owner Christopher Steele. The establishment has been closed for months following Gov. Greg Abbott’s mandate requiring the closure of businesses that generate more than 50 percent of their sales from alcohol.
"This has been so detrimental to our businesses," Steele said. "What I fear the most is that if we are all allowed to reopen, and a COVID spike happens, Gov. Abbott will just shut us down again. It's painfully obvious that Abbott views our industry as expendable and cares nothing for our owners, staff or their livelihood of our families."
Steele said his business will be open when he is allowed to do so without losing his license — a time that many bar owners across Texas fear may not come until there is a vaccine.
“People have not stopped drinking,” Steele said. “They have just moved places they do it at. For some reason, the governor’s strikeforce believes that appetizer of mozzarella sticks stops COVID-19 in its tracks. There is no difference in sitting in my pub and having a beer at a table versus sitting at any restaurant and having a beer. ”
With many bars struggling with the shutdown, Quinn said he thinks it would be great if students continue to go out within reason.
"You also have to remember that if we are irresponsible with the situation that we have and businesses have to close again, we could end up hurting them and our ability to go out in the long run," Quinn said. "Maybe staying at home every once in a while with less than ten of your best friends and a pack of Naturdays isn't the worst idea."
However, Rosner said the situation may not be ideal for local businesses on Northgate, but the health and safety of the community is more important.
"That’s no excuse for them to open back up knowing full well that if they do the spreading rates will go back up," Rosner said. "But, I’m not really sure what the solution is for them. There’s really no way for them to generate any income without opening back up, but I don’t think that should happen until the spreading rates greatly decrease."
If students want the bars reopened, Steele suggests they write to Gov. Abbott, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and their local state representatives.
"At this point our businesses have been closed for four months in 2020," Steele said. "The last month without any direction whatsoever from Abbott or his ‘strikeforce.’ We need voices of support to get us reopened. And once we can reopen, we need everyone to help us get on our feet again. This has been very painful."