COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Tailgating was discouraged at the University of South Carolina’s first home football game, but it wasn’t completely stopped.
Students said the lack of places to tailgate led them to congregate at nearby bars, which resulted in long lines to get inside.
“It’s trying to find somewhere to go, honestly. It’s not the same,” said UofSC Junior Emily Gray. “Normally you know where you are going to go and what you are going to do. Now it’s about trying to find friends, find plans, figure out what you are going to do, and stay safe at the same time.”
Gray said she waited more than an hour just to get into TLC Sports Bar & Grill before kickoff.
The long lines lead to Columbia Fire Department getting called to TLC to make sure all guidelines and ordinances were being followed. Chief Aubrey Jenkins told WIS while the bar was operating legally inside (he only needed to remind patrons to wear masks if they are not eating and drinking), not all fans were wearing masks or socially distancing.
Jenkins said there have been reports of crowded lines outside of bars across downtown Columbia Saturday night.
Some fans were upset about the gameday restrictions, but others felt the university could be stricter on gatherings.
“Overcautious? They’re being under cautious,” said Caroline Southworth, a visitor from another school.
For older fans, it was a different experience.
Once parking gates opened, 2-and-a-half hours prior to kickoff, the once-crowded lots were dotted far fewer cars than in past years.
“Just pulling in it was different. Unreal really,” said longtime tailgaters Wayne and Simone McKim.
The couple said they were originally unsure about coming to their tailgating spot at all but eventually decided to see what it looked like.
“We are scaling back the production. We didn’t bring any food. We just came by to see our friends,” they said.
However, the overall sentiment was one of excitement. Fans were just happy to see their Gamecocks play this year.
“Hopefully, we can do good in football this year. That’s all we can ask for,” said UofSC freshman Devin Batchelor.