Spread out tables, limited seating, and lots of hand sanitizer and masks; restaurants across Georgia were allowed to reopen and offer dine-in service on Monday, April 27 after Governor Brian Kemp controversially eased the state’s social distancing restrictions. Restaurants are now allowed to resume dine-in service, as long as owners and employees meet a list of 39 required guidelines to achieve what Gov. Kemp refers to as “minimum basic operations,” including a mandate that all employees wear masks, owners screen employees for signs of illness, and restrictions on the amount of customers allowed inside at the same time.
He reiterated that bars, nightclubs, sports stadiums, and amusement parks across the state will remain closed until further notice, and “medically fragile” people should continue to shelter at home through at least May 13. Businesses like gyms, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, and bowling alleys were allowed to reopen on Friday, April 24.
Larger space restaurants like Seminole County’s Jo’s Family Restaurant, Old Mexico and Big Jim’s made the decision to reopen their indoor dining rooms, while smaller facilities including Jill’s Bistro and Minto’s decided to continue their take out and curb side picks but not to make in room dining available at this time.
Reed Rognstad owner of Big Jim’s on Lake Seminole commented, “we are following the state mandated guidelines and “R” Country Café may have eight four-top tables inside and Big Jim’s may have seven four-top booths and eight sic-top top tables inside. There will be no bar seating at Big Jim’s.
Outside dining is limited only by space available. All outside dining seating arrangements must be at least six feet apart and may accommodate a maximum of six guests per seating arrangement.”
Jo’s Family Restaurant reopened as well. Owner Jo Woodham commented, “We are under strict guidelines and are requesting customers to not touch the plates when they come in, we will be making plates for you. We are trying our best to keep everyone safe at this time, so obviously no one who is running fever or has any symptoms of COVID-19 is permitted inside.” Jo’s, like all reopening restaurants, is completely cleaning and sanitizing tables and seating areas between customers.
“Georgians have been heeding the advice of our public health officials and our law enforcement to ensure the health and wellbeing of customers and workers, but we will continue to monitor compliance and every region of the state,” Gov. Kemp said in the briefing.
But for businesses like hair salons and restaurants, maintaining the CDC-recommended six foot distance between people is not easily achieved. It’s a dangerous disadvantage in terms of operating safely during the ongoing pandemic, even with following state-mandated guidelines.