Patrons wearing costumes will not be permitted to enter bars and restaurants on the morning of Saturday's Purdue football game against Northwestern University, in a rebuke of the popular Breakfast Club tradition by the mayor.
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said in a press release Friday that the zany bar-hopping ritual will be prohibited because thousands of students are set to return to their home communities for the holiday season as COVID-19 rages. As of Friday morning, 524 students were infected with the virus, according to Purdue's coronavirus dashboard.
Businesses will be allowed to operate during their regular hours, but "bars and restaurants will not permit entry if you are wearing a costume," the mayor said in the release. Bars often open as early as 7 a.m. to celebrate Breakfast Club, but now will remain closed until late morning.
To continue Breakfast Club "would risk damage to the university and community reputation as a safe place for our residents and students," Dennis said. "A fleeting celebration of a community tradition cannot be the moment we let our guard down."
The letter is co-signed by Dr. Jeremy Adler, the Tippecanoe County health officer. The county reported a record-high 208 new cases of the coronavirus in Thursday's update of the Indiana State Department of Health dashboard.
Enforcement of mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines is allotted to the West Lafayette Neighborhood Resource Team, a division of the city's police department. The team's approach to this point has been mostly educational, with no monetary fines issued, Dennis has said.
Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty said the University supports all moves made in the interest of public health and will continue to urge students to adhere to the tenets of the Protect Purdue Pledge both on and off campus.
In an attempt to offer alternatives for students, Purdue will host a gathering to watch the Northwestern game on Memorial Mall Saturday evening. A similar gathering is set to occur on Slayter Hill.
Doty said the University requested and received an exception to the Tippecanoe County health department's ban on most gatherings of more than 100 people. The health department supports outdoor events that enforce mask-wearing, hand-sanitizing and social distancing, he said.
All attendants will be required to provide their contact information to assist contact-tracing efforts, Doty said.
"Attendance will be capped at 250 for this weekend's event, down from an originally planned 500," he added.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb's ban on gatherings of more than 50 people in counties with spread similar to Tippecanoe's will not take effect until Sunday.
Purdue was made aware of the city's intention to discourage Breakfast Clubbers prior to the city's order, West Lafayette Director of Development Erin Easter told the Exponent Friday.
"We can't see if you're wearing a mask" under a costume, Easter said. She clarified that ultimately, bar staffs are at most risk for infection from Breakfast Club, and that "it's up to the establishments to enforce that" order.
No specific enforcement procedures are offered in the press release except that patrons should cooperate with business owners because "we are holding them to standards."
Sending thousands of students home for Thanksgiving break after they participate in bar-hopping and other activities that promote the spread of the virus, she said, is a "grave concern."
"Despite our best efforts, the coronavirus is doing what it does best, spreading rapidly from community to community," Dennis said in the release. "Numbers are on the rise, taxing our hospitals and medical staff beyond belief.
"We are at a critical moment."