MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Law enforcement authorities are preparing a beefed-up presence on Fat Tuesday but acknowledge they do not quite know what to expect from this years non-Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras.
There are no sanctioned Carnival parades in Mobile this year. But the city is closing some downtown streets, and some organizations will have their emblem floats on display in Mardi Gras Park.
That means some people likely will venture downtown on the pre-Lenten holiday, and Mobile Public Safety Director James Barber said it might even promote COVID-19 safety by reducing occupancy in nearby establishments.
“Unlike New Orleans, where you had the closure in the streets, as far as their bars and their restaurants, Mobile has no such closures,” he told FOX10 News. “And so we do expect a lot of people down in the Dauphin Street area, which is why you saw us cordon that area off to create more of an open-air environment to get people out of the inside of clubs.”
Not everyone agrees.
“I’m not really sure that I agree with them closing the streets on Tuesday,” said Susan Steward, who was shopping for Mardi Gras decorations at Toomey’s Mardi Gras on Government Boulevard.
Steward said she is disappointed that her friend who is visiting from Michigan will not get a chance to see the parades. But she questioned whether large crowds gathering in the city is a good idea during the pandemic.
The city will close downtown streets between South Royal Street and Washington Avenue, and from St. Francis Street to Government Street. The area around Mardi Gras Park also will be closed.
Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste says his goal for Tuesday is general crowd control. He said guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey does not invite a heavy hand.
“It’s very kind of lenient and lax,” he said. “I mean, basically it was, ‘wear a mask and maintain social distancing.’ So our goal, primarily is to be there for public safety should that be a need for us to respond to anything that gets out of control.”
Battiste said the approach next week will be similar to the way police have handled the entire pandemic.
“During this time, we’ll follow the same procedures we’ve always followed,” he said. “In those situations where somebody’s completely non-compliant, you know, we’ll issue citations if we need to do that. But we’re going to be, you know, we’ll be down there; we’ll have masks; we’ll have face coverings. And we’ll do what we can to try to make sure people do comply as best they can.”
Some Mobile residents say they’re planning to celebrate – but not necessarily downtown.
Josh Young, the marketing director for Cottages at Schillinger’s Pointe in west Mobile, said he was planning a parade there.
“All the units have their own private driveway. So, we’re doing the parade throughout the property, to where they can kind of stand just in their driveway,” he said. “So, they feel comfortable; we feel comfortable. And, obviously, just kind of partake in the festivities.”