Video appears to show lack of masks, social distancing at bar near University of Virginia

Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 12:02 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - It’s been less than a month since the University of Virginia implemented a restriction on gatherings. That restriction was five people and was upped to 10 last week.

But even with that increase, that policy may have been publically violated. Videos and photos shared with NBC29 showed there may not be full compliance.

One video taken by a student captures what he says is the line to Trinity Irish Pub, located just steps away from University grounds at 9:30 p.m. last Thursday. That video showed a long line with questionable social distancing, but most people were wearing masks.

The same student shared a photo that he says was taken two days later. It showed a crowd at Trinity during the University of Virginia’s football game. It doesn’t appear there was much social distancing or masks.

But the video that might be the biggest concern was shared by an anonymous student from inside Trinity. There are no masks evident, and very little distancing. The taker of the video said it is from Saturday night.

NBC29 reached out to the Thomas Jefferson Health District to see if they have received any complaints.

Their spokesperson Kathryn Goodman said they have “been made aware of the video” and “are following up with the business to review COVID-19 plans and regulations.”

“VDH/TJHD is only able to enforce state mandates," the statement reads. "We have also informed the City of Charlottesville because their local ordinance includes stronger mitigation strategies that can only be enforced by the City.”

They informed Charlottesville because the city passed an ordinance restricting restaurants and bars from exceeding 50 percent capacity that only it can enforce.

Charlottesville says staff members are working with the health department to evaluate complaints received about activities at Trinity last weekend.

“The City of Charlottesville is working with the Thomas Jefferson Health District to evaluate complaints they received about activities at Trinity Irish Pub last weekend,” a statement from the city reads. “The City would like to remind the community that if they have any concerns regarding potential violations, they may call the Regional Emergency Communications Center’s non-emergency line at (434) 977-9041.”

If this video was taken on Saturday, it would be in violation of UVA’s policy and directly contradict instructions from President Jim Ryan sent in the past month:

“It is more important than ever to be mindful of maintaining physical distance from other people as much as possible,” Ryan said on Sept. 22. "This includes bars and restaurants. if you cannot stay 6 feet from others at a restaurant or bar, do not go in.”

We’ve reached out to the owner of Trinity asking if they’ve heard from the Department of Health. He said he had no comment.

University of Virginia Spokesperson Brian Coy shared the following statement:

“The University has developed a comprehensive plan to protect the health and safety of the UVA community and our Charlottesville neighbors. University policy prohibits students from gathering in groups larger than 10 and requires them to wear masks and practice physical distancing at all times. In the event students violate that policy, we investigate the details and take appropriate action, up to and including suspensions. We have worked throughout the semester with the Virginia Department of Health and local merchants to ensure that all local and state health and safety guidelines are followed and enforced and we will continue that partnership going forward.”

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