The curfew is aimed at at alleviating what community leadership is calling "mass crowding of young people, all ignoring social distancing measures."
SEASIDE — The iconic coastal Walton County Road 30A community of Seaside, continuing to take a hard line against the spread of COVID-19, has established an 8 p.m. curfew for its commercial district beginning Friday.
The curfew is aimed at at alleviating what community leadership is calling “mass crowding of young people, all ignoring social distancing measures.”
The curfew won’t apply to three of the commercial district’s full-service restaurants — Bud & Alley’s, Pizza Bar and Great Southern.
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The three restaurants will be open past 8 p.m. by reservation only, with employees required to wear masks and follow stringent safety and cleaning protocols, according to a Thursday afternoon announcement from the Seaside Community Development Corporation (SCDC).
Seaside shut down its commercial district in March, with the exception of food-service establishments, in connection with concerns regarding COVID-19.
The commercial district reopened on May 29, with businesses requiring patrons to wear masks and taking other steps to counter the spread of COVID-19, including the ready availability of hand sanitizer.
Also in connection with the reopening, the SCDC closed Central Square, which rings the commercial district, to vehicular traffic and parking.
“With limited parking, the expectation was there would be less traffic and a lower sales volume among merchants,” the SCDC announcement stated.
However, the announcement went on to note, “the town still experiences large crowds of guests arriving on foot or by bicycle.”
One result, according to the SCDC, is that “Airstream Row, a popular collection of ‘food trucks’ ... directly off Scenic 30A is particularly congested in the evenings with mass crowding of young people, all ignoring social distancing measures.”
“Our retail stores are closed by 7 p.m. Our beaches are limited to reservations only,” said Pam Avera, the SCDC’s general manager, adding that the crowding by young people is “causing undue stress for our merchants and our staff.”
“The threat of COVID-19 is not gone,” Avera also noted in the SCDC announcement. Elsewhere in the announcement, the SCDC notes that “(a) few positive cases of the virus have already been reported by employees who work in Seaside.”
“We must add this curfew to mitigate crowds and help slow the spread of the virus,” the SCDC stated.
The SCDC announcement includes a quote from Bryan Pritchett, owner of the Duckies and Mercantile retail stores in Seaside’s commercial district.
“We greatly appreciate the leadership of Seaside, as they have consistently made very difficult decisions to make health and safety a priority,” Pritchett says in the announcement.
Also according to the announcement, Seaside merchants have been getting static from some people regarding the requirement to wear a mask in commercial district businesses.
“While most of the guests kindly bring and wear their masks, many merchants have reported outrage by some consumers. The town has taken a stance that if you do not want to wear a mask, simply do not come to Seaside stores,” the SCDC announcement states.
“The founders of Seaside, their leadership team and the Seaside merchants will not compromise regarding the requirement of masks in stores,” the announcement continues.
Seaside merchants and community representatives are continuing to monitor the spread of COVID-19, according to the announcement, and “(m)ore extreme measures (for controlling the spread of the virus) may be announced.”