What social distancing? Atlanta nightclubs packed despite pandemic

Fans jammed a club recently for T.I.'s album release
Atlanta- 09-22-20 Atlanta Hip-Hop artist T.I. sits down with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss his milestone birthday, as he turns 40-years-old. (Tyson Horne / tyson.horne@ajc.com)

Credit: Tyson Horne / tyson.horne@ajc.com

Credit: Tyson Horne / tyson.horne@ajc.com

Atlanta- 09-22-20 Atlanta Hip-Hop artist T.I. sits down with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss his milestone birthday, as he turns 40-years-old. (Tyson Horne / tyson.horne@ajc.com)

An Atlanta nightclub was packed into the early hours recently as revelers celebrated the 11th studio album by hometown rapper T.I.

A video of the event at the Gold Room making the rounds on social media shows a packed house and T.I. posing for photos. What it doesn’t show: Social distancing or many folks wearing masks.

“No masks ANYWHERE,” one person posted on Twitter in response.

Gold Club management didn’t respond this week to requests for comment.

Friday night’s gathering wasn’t an isolated event in Atlanta, where clubs have been crowded despite the ongoing pandemic. Elleven45 Lounge recently hosted entertainer Gucci Mane, according to an Instagram post. Atlanta Pride was virtual this year, but partyers not officially affiliated with the annual festival swarmed BJ Roosters on Cheshire Bridge Road, various social media posts showed.

Atlanta police have been called this month to both the Gold Club and Elleven45, a spokesman said Monday. But no 911 callers complained about social distancing violations, Officer Anthony Grant said. Instead, officers were called to investigate illegal parking and noise complaints, he said.

Atlanta City Councilman Matt Westmoreland said he’s heard from residents concerned about large gatherings. City government can’t close down establishments, but state-approved limits on crowd size should be enforced, he said.

“I understand and share people’s desire to socialize, but it has to be done safely and following practices that will help limit any spread,” Westmoreland said. “More broadly, as a former teacher and former member of the Atlanta Board of Education, we need to be doing everything possible to bring down our numbers in Atlanta so we can get our kids back in school as soon as possible.”

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring has postponed reopening schools until January 2021.

“Despite downward trends in recent weeks, our community has seen recent increases in new cases, resulting in a current average that exceeds 130 new cases per 100,000 county residents,” she said in a statement. “That number leaves us in substantial spread of COVID-19 and unable to reopen to in-person instruction.”

In late May, Gov. Brian Kemp eased restrictions against bars and nightclubs and allowed them to re-open if they followed dozens of guidelines. Large social gatherings were still blamed on a late-summer surge in virus cases. In late September, Kemp renewed his order on a public health state of emergency and provided additional guidelines for bars and other businesses where food is served. The Georgia Department of Public Health published nine pages of guidelines for employees and patrons of bars and restaurants.

It’s unclear how closely the guidelines are being followed at nightclubs. Over the Labor Day weekend, for example, social media posts showed unmasked revelers crowding dance floors. Police said no mask citations were issued despite an ordinance in place at the time. Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore urged young adults to self-quarantine and get tested.

“Social media platforms are flooded with videos and images of hundreds of people indoors and outdoors with no masks and no social distancing,” Moore said in a statement at the time. “Many of those pictured appeared to be in the 18-29 years old age range, which is the group seeing the sharpest increase in COVID-19 cases.”

In an interview last month with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, T.I. said he has been tested several times for coronavirus and has never tested positive.

“I’m not worried for me. My wife and I have taken eight or nine tests, and around the seventh test, we’re still negative, but she’s developed antibodies somehow,” he said. “That means that she had it, fought it off, developed the antibodies, but didn’t give it to me!”

In some cities, the business restrictions during the pandemic have been detrimental, leaving nightclub owners desperate for customers.

In Miami, nightclubs were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity after an order issued Sept. 25 by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Associated Press reported.

Miami leaders have imposed a midnight curfew and loud music is restricted so that people don’t have to shout and risk spreading the virus. A local mask ordinance is also in place.

On Monday, President Donald Trump reportedly said Americans are “tired” of hearing about the coronavirus. And in his recent interview, T.I. had a similar message based on the positive antibodies results his wife has gotten.

“It’s experiences like that that make me feel like, how much of a coincidence is it that every state is a Republican state that is open and every state that is fighting to stay closed is a Democratic state?” the entertainer also know as Clifford Harris Jr. said. “It seems a bit politicized to me.”

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