“Well, 6 feet means many things to different people,” said a Jacksonville resident named Sally.
At one point, a man who worked at the restaurant addressed the crowd over a microphone.
“The City of Jacksonville has made an announcement that we have entirely too many people in the parking lot due to the coronavirus. They still want social distancing,” the man said. “We gotta do our part we got to respect the city. We gotta respect each other. So the tailgaters, they’re asking that if you have tents, if you have stuff set up in the parking lot, your chairs, they’re gonna need you to pack those up, and you can still order food. You can still get take out. You can still get your drinks. They’re not worried about that. But we have to start doing what they’ve asked us to do.”
He continued: “We want you all to continue to talk. We want you all to drink tonight. We want you all to eat tonight, don’t stop that. Don’t leave. Don’t leave. Just get it under control.”
About 30 minutes after officers first arrived, police shut down the party because it appeared people were still not complying with the rules.
Not only were the partygoers close to each other, but many were not wearing face masks. When News4Jax spoke to several of them, the explanation as to why they were gathered without protecting themselves was the same.
“I don’t even know anybody who knows anybody who’s had the virus, so for me, it’s hard to say I’m afraid because I’m not afraid,” said Jacksonville resident Jean Marie.
Jacksonville resident Rick Williamson said: “I don’t know anybody who knows anybody who’s had this.”
Others who News4Jax spoke with said it was all about blowing off some steam on a festive holiday after being stuck at home for several weeks.
“We’re just ready to let our guard down and do just whatever it is we feel like we need to do,” said a Jacksonville resident named Miriam.
One partygoer, who said she’s a nurse and has tended to COVID-19 patients, mentioned she believes in herd immunity.
“That is where we become immune and just let the virus run its course like we have all viruses. It’s a virus. There is nothing you can do,” Jacksonville resident Rachel Treadwell said.
Once the party was ended, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office allowed the restaurant to remain open, but only to serve food. No one was allowed to continue gathering.
A spokesperson for the mayor’s office issued a statement about the party that said: “Once we were notified about crowd, we immediately informed JSO who sent officers to the scene to enforce compliance. As Mayor (Lenny) Curry said today, we don’t want to have to shut down businesses. We are counting on them to protect our citizens.”
News4Jax was also told the mayor will be addressing the issue during his news briefing on Wednesday.
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