What the easing of restrictions will mean for businesses

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Kemp’s new order Relaxes COVID-19 restrictions today in many areas and ends ban on gatherings of 50 or more people. This will have a significant impact on businesses, from restaurants and convention centers to gymnasiums and concert halls.

While many companies across Georgia will fully benefit from the restoration, others told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they do not anticipate any immediate changes, fearing that too rapid easing of standards could allow the virus to render. ill staff or customers.

Some said they would wait until more citizens could get vaccinated, including staff members. Others have said they will slack off a bit, where they think it’s safe, but plan to take it slow.

Kemp said easing the rules was a critical step in getting back to “normal life” and helping struggling businesses survive. It is time, he said, pointing to the decrease in the number of new infections from the winter peak and the growing number of Georgians – 2.9 million on Wednesday – who got at least one dose of the vaccine.

But cases on the rise again in many other states, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and President Joe Biden urged states to suspend reopening to save time and allow more people to get vaccinated.

To exploreHow Georgia Stacks Up With Other Southern States On COVID-19 Restrictions

Of particular concern is the emergence of new strains of the virus that are more infectious and deadly, such as the one first detected in the UK. The strain, known as B.1.1.7, is now the most common in the United States, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said in a White House briefing on Wednesday.

Bob Bednarczyk, assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at Emory University, said that if it is possible to justify a targeted release, mechanisms should be put in place to restore safety protocols to deal with the potential epidemics.

Health experts are also concerned that looser rules will send the wrong message to the public.

“I’m concerned that if many people quickly give up masking, physical distancing or other public health measures, the numbers may start to rise again, especially when you consider the growing spread of variants, particularly B.1.1. 7, ”said Pinar Keskinocak, professor of engineering at Georgia Tech and director of the Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems, whose work includes modeling infectious diseases.

No rush to change

Under the governor’s order, many improved sanitation rules remain in place. Waiters and restaurant staff, for example, should always wear masks when interacting with customers.

The most important change for restaurants is the reduction in the space between the tables.

However, most Atlanta metro restaurateurs say they are in no rush to increase seating capacity.

“Grindhouse Killer Burgers will not make any changes due to the new law,” said owner Alex Brounstein.

From Varuni Napoli in Midtown, to Ray’s on the River in Sandy Springs, to Drift Oyster Bar in East Cobb, the 6-foot security measure will also remain in place, according to these operators. Their move echoes the cautionary sentiments of nearly a year ago, when few restaurateurs rushed to reopen for dinner there. despite the green light.

“Over the past 12 months, we have forged a layer of trust with customers. We’re going to take a slow and easy approach, ”said Ryan Pernice, whose RO Hospitality group includes Table & Main and Osteria Mattone in Roswell as well as Coalition Food and Beverage in Alpharetta.

Because physical barriers have been an option instead of a 6-foot separation since the start of the pandemic, the latest order doesn’t change much for places like Ray’s on the River which has invested in barriers between stands l ‘last year. More recently, Suzanne Vizethann of Buttermilk Kitchen placed an order for partitions. Once they’re in place, the popular brunch venue will bring back more tables, increasing capacity to 80%.

For restaurants that plan to change table configurations, these will be the most visible outdoors.

Most Atlanta restaurateurs, like South City Kitchen, are in no rush to increase capacity, as Governor Brian Kemp’s Latest Pandemic Emergency Order allowed. (Hyosub Shin / [email protected])

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Fifth Group, which has South City Kitchen, Ecco and Alma Cocina in its portfolio, will be installing patios at full capacity starting today, but only weather permitting, lifting enclosure shutters on all sides. and whether management is comfortable with the decision.

“We leave it to the CEOs to say, ‘You know your staff. You know your guests. Do what you think is right, ”said partner Robby Kukler.

El Ponce in Midtown and Talat Market in Summerhill are among the restaurants whose indoor dining areas remain closed and were only recently revived on tiptoe via the patio. For places like these, even adding a few tables to the patio is a measured decision.

“We have already been planning for the last month to open indoors and increase the space on our patio because the city of Atlanta has granted us a park,” said Talat co-owner Parnass Savang. The park, scheduled for completion this Saturday, will add four or five additional tables to the landscaping. “We try to get as many seats as possible with what is safest. We don’t want people to be uncomfortable, ”he said.

Waiting for numbers

The governor’s order also removes restrictions on barber shops, tattoo parlors and tanning facilities and limits on the number of customers in a store.

Gyms and fitness centers no longer need to assign workers to patrol training areas to force equipment cleaning. They don’t need to space out workout equipment or block out all other cardio machines, but they should still disinfect group fitness equipment and rooms on a regular basis. The executive order also reduces the distance required between clients in group training classes from 10 feet to 6 feet.

Co-owner Alixx Hetzel (right) gives gym member Kelsey Cortez (left) a hand sanitizer while recording at VESTA Movement Ponce in Atlanta on Wednesday.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Co-owner Alixx Hetzel (right) gives gym member Kelsey Cortez (left) a hand sanitizer while recording at VESTA Movement Ponce in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Hyosub Shin / [email protected])

Credit: Hyosub Shin / [email protected]

Credit: Hyosub Shin / [email protected]

Theaters can similarly reduce the distance between patrons from 6 to 3 feet, and they no longer need to assign an usher to each screening room to ensure social distancing at the start of each movie.

Still, some business owners say they’ll wait until the number of local cases goes down before unraveling many of the protocols they put in place earlier.

Escobar, the owner of the Plaza Theater, said he was following guidelines from the CDC, the National Association of Theater Owners and the City of Atlanta.

The Plaza resumed indoor screenings last September, five months after Kemp authorized the theaters to reopen, capping guest numbers at around 28% capacity and running UV lights between shows to help sanitize the theater, among other security measures. It also hosts parties drive-thru movies, but Escobar said the venue was still struggling financially, especially during the winter.

Escobar said that while he appreciates Kemp trying to get out of business, the state should provide “more consistency across the board” when it comes to COVID protections. He pointed to the absence of state mask warrants, which he said “creates undue stress and conflict between companies and their customers.”

“This is the role that the state must play, to have these rules that really make sense in all areas,” he said. “It’s not like there is a pandemic in some companies and not in others.”

‘The light at the end of the tunnel’

Concert halls no longer need to provide hand sanitizer stations or screen for COVID symptoms at entrances, although venues are still required to train employees on how to identify symptoms.

Sites are also still encouraged to install contactless ticketing and parking systems and to extend breaks and intermissions to reduce the mass of people using the washroom at the same time.

Ellen Chamberlain, owner of Red Light Cafe in Virginia-Highland, is still considering slowing things down.

Its 130-person hall, known for its jazz and Americana concerts and burlesque shows, has been kept alive during the pandemic thanks to a mix of loans and grants.

Since July, it is only open for Wednesday evening jazz concerts. About forty regulars will sit socially distant at the café, which borders Piedmont Park, to hear the Gordon Vernick Quartet play several numbers – the band members are either vaccinated or masked themselves – before inviting other musicians on. stage for a jam session.

“I think they’re really grateful to be out,” Chamberlain said of his clients. She hopes to check people’s vaccination cards once more of the population has been vaccinated. In the meantime, she said, “we finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Editors Helena Oliviero and Eric Stirgus contributed to this report.

Lax application

Governor Brian Kemp’s order revoking many restrictions on Georgian businesses also eliminates law enforcement’s ability to shut down an organization for failing to adhere to COVID-19 security protocols. People who violate the ordinance can still be charged with misdemeanors. However, the state rarely enforced the rules. A Georgia State Patrol spokesperson said the office had responded to more than 3,400 calls about possible violations, but had issued just 21 citations since the start of the pandemic.


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