COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Some Columbia City Council members are reacting after hundreds of University of South Carolina students packed into a Five Points bar Monday night.
Photos and videos show no social distancing and very few masks outside Pavlov’s Bar. Both university officials and city council members note this is unacceptable. They believe students took the governor’s move to allow restaurants to open at 100 percent capacity as a cue to pack the bar.
Columbia Councilman Howard Duvall says when he saw the video of Pavlov’s, he was frustrated. “This could be a super spreader event. One or two people that are positive and shedding the virus could spread it to a lot of people,” he explained. “Why can’t the UofSC students behave and understand we are all in this together.”
Duvall also noted the number of people not wearing masks or social distancing at Pavlov’s Monday night broke the city’s mask ordinance. “If students were just congregating on the sidewalk then we’ve got to have a better control of people waiting to get inside an establishment,” said Duvall. He believes the number of people at the bar also likely violated fire code, and he’s asked the Columbia Fire Marshall for a report on the capacity guidelines for Pavlov’s.
When one business violates the city’s rules, Duvall says it affects all city businesses. “The city does not have the authority to pinpoint enforcement, so if we have to get involved in enforcing mask ordinances and social distancing and the bar closing at 11 o’clock, we cannot put that on a single restaurant. We have to do it on everybody,” he explained. “If the businesses want to be able to open up and serve people safely, we need to get these types of situations under control.”
Ricky Mollohan, who owns Mr. Friendly’s restaurant, which is directly across the street from Pavlov’s says because of repeated inappropriate student behavior in Five Points, his business and others are seeing fewer people coming to dine in the area.
Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook also took part in the meeting, saying Monday night’s situation at Pavlov’s took his department by surprise, but that CPD and UofSC police are working together to make sure students and businesses follow the city and state ordinances.
University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen was also part of Tuesday afternoon’s council meeting, and he said he believes 90 percent of students have taken the virus seriously and have followed mask wearing and social distancing measures, and only 10 percent haven’t. “I’m sure all of you saw the social media about Pavlov’s in Five Points opening up and lifting the ordinance,” said Caslen. “You’ve got students packed in there. These are students, that’s the natural reaction, and this has become something we have to address.”
He adds the university has taken disciplinary action against nearly 3,000 students who have violated social distancing or mask wearing protocols, and 56 students are currently facing a level of suspension.
There was also talk of testing fatigue during the meeting because Councilman Duvall says he’s worried the current 38 active cases on the university campus is not accurate. “I question whether they are testing properly or sufficient testing,” he explained. “If they had 1,400 positive tests the first week of school, I can’t see how they’ve gotten it down to 40 or 39 now. I would say UofSC needs to be forthright with the testing, and they ought to be testing everybody at least weekly.”
President Caslen did note Monday the university launched a campaign to begin randomly testing 3,750 students a week, in addition to randomly testing for COVID-19 antibodies.
We reached out to the owner of Pavlov’s several times Tuesday and have not yet heard back.