CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Town officials in Chapel Hill are urging people not to congregate on Franklin Street if the UNC men’s basketball team beats Duke University Saturday, according to a news release.
In the release, town officials said police will be present on Franklin Street Saturday night and will be prepared for the unexpected.
The effort comes after between 500 to 1,000 people rushed Franklin Street after the last UNC’s last victory over Duke on Feb. 6.
Some students started small fires and many students were not wearing masks.
“Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 crowd limits prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people outdoors due to the risk of spreading the coronavirus,” said Kelly Drayton, emergency management coordinator for the town of Chapel Hill. “In fact, the governor’s decision to stick to 50 people outdoors while loosening other restrictions should be a clear message about its importance. We must adhere to these public health guidelines to continue this important battle we’ve all been in for nearly a year.”
Town officials said there are no plans to close the roads because Franklin and Columbia streets are major thoroughfares, especially for ambulances and UNC Hospitals.
Officials in Chapel Hill are encouraging people to visit Franklin Street earlier in the day and have breakfast or lunch before the game starts at 6 p.m.
UNC will be hosting a virtual watch party that students are encouraged to attend. In addition, the university will be putting out messaging throughout the week to encourage students to watch the game physically distanced, but socially connected.
Students CBS 17 talked to said they agree with the town’s message to students.
“I think it’s dangerous to go out and celebrate with a huge crowd of people,” said Jackson Mosley, a UNC junior. “I think that’s insensitive during these times.”
UNC junior Daniel Manila said he plans to watch the game with housemates and they plan to order takeout.
“It seems like a reasonable precaution,” Manila said. “It’s kind of the way the virus spreads so it seems like a good idea not to have large crowds.”
Businesses on Franklin Street are gearing up for the big game in hopes of seeing a boost in business.
“I think this rivalry really brings a good energy to Franklin Street that we’ve been missing,” said Claire Perry, general manager of Sup Dogs.
The state just recently lifted the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants, and Perry said it’s been good for their business.
Perry is hoping that people will still come out and support small businesses, as she said her restaurant is taking the necessary social distancing precautions.
“I think with our protocols we should be able to fill our restaurant perfectly fine,” Perry said.
At Linda’s Bar and Grill, owner Chris Carini said it has been a tough year for his business.
“Business is down about 90%,” Carini said. “I didn’t know if we were going to make it to 2021.”
Carini said he understands the town’s message, but his and other restaurants are still urging people to come out, as long as they don’t form large crowds.
“The university telling people to stay home and not do things, that’s not bad,” Carini said. “But I hope people will still come out to join us to at least watch the game for as many people as we can fit.”
University officials are also reminding students about the UNC Community Standards and that they can be kicked off campus if they don’t comply.
CBS 17 did reach out to UNC officials to find out how many students faced disciplinary action after the last UNC win over Duke, but officials said that information is not yet available.
Information on how to sign up to attend the UNC Virtual Watch Party can be found at the following link.