After mayor's Friday order, Breakfast Club diminishes
Saturday was the first time in years that the sidewalks of Chauncey Hill weren’t filled to the brim with colorfully costumed students on the morning of a homecoming football game. Flattened beer cans and red Solo cups from the night before littered the State Street sidewalk, and new “Protect Purdue” signs hung in the windows of Brothers Bar and Mad Mushroom Pizza.
A few dozen students formed a line outside Harry’s Chocolate Shop half an hour before it opened — starkly different from the hundreds of costumed college students who thronged to Chauncey bars as recently as late October.
Following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases on campus, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis announced in a Friday press release that anyone wearing a costume would not be allowed into bars, attempting to stymie the campus tradition.
A Harry’s Chocolate Shop employee checked not just for IDs and open containers, but also for costumes as bargoers filtered in. Dennis’ press release didn’t specify what counts as a costume.
When a handful of women clad in gold-and-black-striped overalls got to the front of the line, an employee let them in. He told the students that the overalls didn’t count as costumes if they are something the bargoers normally wear.
One student was seen walking across the intersection of Northwestern Avenue and State Street in a lion onesie, but didn’t seem to approach any of the Chauncey Hill bars.
Nearby bar Where Else prepared for expected hordes of students by marking off a corner of the Chauncey Hill Mall parking lot with caution tape and socially distanced Xs chalked on the ground.
When the bar opened Saturday morning, the partitioned area was empty.
The same seemed true for Brothers Bar & Grill, which taped warning signs to the rails lining State Street and Xs marking where people should stand on the sidewalk. Few students lined up for the bar Saturday compared to the crowds of past weeks and years.
Some students decided to come to Harry’s to maintain the game-day ritual even if they couldn’t wear their costumes.
Chase Gregory, a senior in the College of Engineering, said he and his friends always took part in the tradition. He had planned to dress as Fred from “Scooby-Doo.” On Saturday, he was bundled up in a Purdue shirt, a jacket and a fuzzy hat.
Gregory said that while he understands why the mayor made the order, he disagrees with it.
“I think it’s a little ridiculous that (Purdue) President Mitch Daniels said that Breakfast Club wasn’t a violation of the Protect Purdue Pledge, and then the mayor came out and you know,” Gregory said. “I don’t know what a costume is going to do to stop the spread, but I do understand where they’re coming from.”
Earlier this semester, a Purdue spokesperson confirmed that simply attending Breakfast Club was not a Protect Purdue violation.
Several other students waiting in line declined to comment, one saying he didn’t want to “expose himself.”
Harry’s Chocolate Shop staff made efforts to enforce mask and social-distancing guidelines. In the half hour before the doors opened to customers, an employee walked through the line telling students to put on their masks. About 20 minutes later, another employee came outside and moved the line of students, so they could spread out farther down Pierce Street instead of crowding the sidewalk outside Von’s Book Shop.
“I cannot emphasize how important it is that you guys follow the rules,” a Harry’s employee told bargoers as they entered. “Only get up from your table if you need to use the bathroom.”
Other people seemed more wary of the campus bar scene.
When the line outside Harry’s was at its peak before opening, one woman got off the sidewalk and walked along the side of the street. She glared at the students in line as she passed.
One little girl pointed and stared at the people in line as her mother and a younger boy followed her out of Von’s. After stopping and watching for a second, the mother led her captivated children down the sidewalk on the edge of the curb, the street’s metal railing separating her family from the students.