Atlanta Restaurants, Industry Experts React To Gov. Kemp’s Order Allowing Dining Rooms To Reopen

Eateries can fully resume operation starting Monday, April 27 and gyms, bowling alleys, salons and other indoor facilities can come back online as early as Friday. Here's what the City had to say.
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During a press conference Monday, April 20 Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced plans to begin reopening businesses that were temporarily shuttered by state mandate in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Gyms, salons, and other indoor facilities are able to start reopening as early as Friday, April 24, and restaurants can resume operation of dining rooms as of Monday, April 27, contingent on compliance with soon-to-be-released state guidelines.

Plan specifics are expected to be rolled out later this week.

In the meantime, What Now Atlanta reached out to a few Atlanta chefs and industry experts to get their initial reaction of the Governor’s announcement, and will be updating this article with more quotes as they come in.

If you’re a restauranteur, especially one that will be reopening Friday, please email us!

Restaurants:

Hugh Acheson, Empire State South

“Hey [Gov. Kemp], you want me to reopen because everything is gonna be fine, but the [White House] is now banning any immigration because of the ongoing RAVAGES OF COVID. So which wackadoodle road should I follow?”

Ford Fry, Rocket Farm Restaurants

“I want to let you all know that we’re feeling grateful over here for all the support we’ve received from our neighbors these past few weeks. I know as a community, we’re looking for answers. We don’t feel it is in the city’s best interest to resume business as usual, so Rocket Farm Restaurants will not be reopening our dining rooms at this time. This inevitably brings up more questions: of course I want to jumpstart the economy and get our people back to work, providing for their families, giving them back what they know & love, but I don’t feel that’s the safest decision for our employees or our guests right now. What I do want is for our team to put a plan in place and remain proactive – this moment in time has given us the opportunity to think about how we can be better and serve you better, more responsibly and more sustainably – and we as a team will utilize this time to think through how we can reopen in a refreshed and safe way. I am so thankful for your support & look forward to the day that our doors are fully open and we can continue to provide for you what we love the most.”

Alex Brounstein, Grindhouse Killer Burgers

“In order to maintain a comfortable level of safety for our staff and guests, Grindhouse will not be opening it’s dining rooms on Monday. Despite the announcement by Gov. Kemp to encourage reopening, we feel that it is far too soon to allow on-site dining. We will be actively monitoring the situation and making our own determination of when to reopen based on when we feel it is the responsible thing to do.”

Justin Anthony, True Story Brands

“To our True Story Brands family, following Governor Kemp’s announcement allowing Georgia restaurants to reopen on Monday, April 27, we have made the difficult decision to remain closed at this time. The safety and health of our guests, employees, and community are our highest priority, and until we have more information that we are not putting anyone in an unsafe or uncomfortable environment, we will keep our doors closed. For now, the True Story Brands team is hard at work gathering information and formulating a reopening plan that will serve our community and our team in the best and safest way possible. We will keep you updated along the way, so please check back here for updates. We are eager to serve you all again soon. Thank you for your continued understanding and support.”

Chef Ian Winslade, Mission + Market

“Currently, our plans are to continue our curbside pickup and third party delivery model. We will continue to re-assess things as they progress over the coming days and reopen our dining room once we feel as if our customers are comfortable and feel safe to resume dining with us.”

Brian Maloof, Manuel’s Tavern

“My phone has been blowing up with tons of questions from staff and regular customers asking if we’re going to open on Monday. The answer is no. All of our experience and the wisdom of some really smart people that work at the tavern think it’s way too early. As much as I would like to be open, it’s not happening. Being closed has not been fun, but it’s been the safest, best thing we could do for our staff and our customers. We have not done any to-go service because we believed it was the safest option for ourselves, the community, and the City. We will be opening up soon, maybe in 10 days doing to-go service only. The tavern staffing will be voluntary and exclude any employees in high-risk groups. We will continue doing to-go only until I’m convinced that it’s safe to open the tavern back up completely; it may be several weeks or longer. Don’t hate us for being safe. I look forward to selling you something to-go.”

Colonnade Restaurant

“The governor is saying that restaurants can open but we won’t just yet. We closed March 16th for the safety of our employees and our customers. Our industry will see changes going forward. I just think it’s too early and want everyone to stay safe. We definitely miss everyone!”

Castellucci Hospitality Group

“CHG Fam, as you may be aware, Governor Kemp announced yesterday that restaurants are allowed to resume normal operations as early as Monday, April 27. While we are anxious to reopen to see and serve all of you, at this moment we do not feel that is in the best interest of our team, or for you, our guests. Health and safety will continue to be our top priority, and with that in mind, at this time we will continue to operate as a takeout restaurant only. We have not chosen a specific date to reopen but can promise to share updates as the situation changes and develops. Our decision will be driven by data and information, and we will have to react fluidly. We will begin the necessary preparations for reopening, but please understand that it will take time. Thank you again for the overwhelming support! We know these are challenging times and look forward to hopefully soon putting this all behind us. We promise to continue delivering exceptional dining experiences, to the best of our ability, while keeping our communities safe.”

Justin Amick, Painted Hospitality

“Although I couldn’t be happier to have bowling solidified as one of life’s most essential needs, I’m surprised by the accelerated timeline to be able to reopen our doors to the public. We can’t wait to get back to work, but the decision feels premature. Small businesses, including restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, are currently fighting for their lives due to the nationwide forced closures. We look forward to digesting all the information and making the best decision that aligns and serves our entire community.”

Bob Amick, Concentrics Restaurants

“On one hand, we need to be open to be able to survive, but we only have one opportunity to get it right, there are no second chances. We are scared to death about the new norms, strict limitations, and guidelines that will make it impossible to be financially viable. A rushed reopening could be the nail in the coffin for many companies. We won’t risk the safety of our staff, families, and patrons, as their well-being is of the utmost importance. We look forward to digesting all the information and making the best decision that aligns and serves our entire community.”

Yumbii

“Despite Governor Kemp’s announcement allowing the reopening of restaurants on Monday, April 27, our Taco Shop will remain closed for dine-in service until further notice. The safety of our Yumbii family is of the utmost importance to us, and while we are eager to return to full service, we need to gather more information and make the safest, most thoughtful decision for our staff, guests and community. Our team will continue to monitor this situation closely and provide updates when we have more information. Until then, we will remain open for curbside, takeout service, and delivery, and our food trucks are also available to come to your neighborhood. We are so grateful for all the support we’ve received over the last few weeks, and we look forward to the day we can safely reopen our doors and serve you in our dining room again soon.”

Noble Fin

“Five weeks ago we closed Noble Fin because a guest called the restaurant and was told by his Dr that he had to tell the places that he had gone to that he was exposed to the virus. He called and warned us that our staff could be at risk because he dined with us two days prior. We reacted and our team discussed the consequences of this phone call. We decided that in an effort to protect our staff, their families, and our guests, that it was in the best interest to close and take a wait and see position. I didn’t hear one employee complain but several said they really appreciated the decision. The man did call back several days later and he tested negative but the scare was enough to make us all pause and think. Now, we are presented with a similar challenge of re-opening in Georgia. But instead of asking ourselves, Is it a good idea to close, we are asking ourselves, is it a good idea and time to re-open? There is now a law that states if the employee gets COVID, that the company must pay them for up to three weeks. It also includes if the employee has to take care of their spouse or a child. So this protects the employee financially but does not protect their health if they get sick. This is also not the best for an employer since you have to ask the question…What if many of the staff get sick? We are going to open sooner or later but now our employees are either collecting UI or if their company received the PPP loan, maybe they got hired back, possibly temporary. Let’s face it, restaurants are not going to simply bounce back. It will take time. It won’t happen overnight. We don’t have to wonder how it will be with guests dining with masks on when this has already been happening in other parts of the world. Yes, people dine with masks on. It’s less noisy in a restaurant. There are not as many people cheerily celebrating, and fewer people are dining. How they eat without touching their mask? I don’t know. But when it comes to the safety of the staff and the safety of my family, I am one to say, “the decision to reopen now seems more of a risk than it was to decide to temporarily close.” So for now, we will wait to fully reopen and watch this play out. Below are some items to think about that the Governor of Georgia did not mention but may have an impact on one’s decision. I hope it helps. Minimum Basic Operations. “Minimum Basic Operations,” which include (i) the minimum necessary activities to facilitate remote working or provision of remote services, as well as (iii) (and here it gets a bit vague) “the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of a business… provide services, manage inventory, ensure security, process payroll, and employee benefits, or for related functions.” Notably, businesses conducting Minimum Basic Operations are permitted to remain open to the public, but unlike Critical Infrastructure businesses, must maintain social distancing, which requires that the business does not allow more than 10 people to congregate at a single location, requires a distance of at least six feet between people and adheres to a list of 20 enumerated requirements.”

Joe’s East Atlanta Coffee Shop

“Although Governor Kemp has reopened some businesses starting as early as Friday, we will not be reopening our seating area on April 27. We will, however, continue to offer curbside service and will gladly take call ahead orders as well. The health and safety of our customers and staff take priority over profits. We want to thank you so much for your support in these times!We also want to thank all the brave health care workers, first responders, and other truly essential workers for being on the front lines every day during this pandemic. We remain in awe of your service.”

JenChan’s

“We just want to put it out there that we will not be reopening to the public on Monday as Kemp has proposed. #toosoon”

Billy and Jenn Streck, Hampton + Hudson

“Just over a month ago, we opened Hampton + Hudson General Store to continue to provide food and necessities to our customers, and we are so grateful for the support we’ve received from all of you during this time. While Governor Kemp is allowing restaurants to reopen on Monday, April 27, we feel that it’s too early to welcome you back. The safety of our team, guests and community is our highest priority, and we are relying on health data and recommendations from the CDC and other public health authorities to determine when we will reopen. Rest assured, we will provide a safe environment to gather and will let you know here as soon as we feel comfortable reopening. Thank you again for your ongoing support. We can’t wait to take care of you soon. Be well + much love.”

Billy Streck and Anthony Spina, Nina & Rafi

“As you know, Governor Kemp will allow restaurants across the state to reopen beginning Monday, April 27. While we are eager to welcome you back, we will continue to offer take-out and delivery only for the safety of our guests, team, and community until we feel that the time is right. We are monitoring health data and recommendations from the CDC and other public health authorities to dictate when we will reopen and will share details with you as soon as we have a plan in place that will ensure all guests feel safe in our space. We can’t thank you enough for the support during this time and are thrilled to welcome you when it’s safe to do so.”

Fork U Concepts (Taqueria Tsunami, Stockyard Burgers and Bones, Forno Vero, and Silla Del Toro.)

“We miss you! At this time we are going to continue to serve ToGo and Curbside at our restaurants that are currently open and plan to gradually open our other restaurants for ToGo and Curbside as well in the next couple weeks. We do not have a defined date to reopen the dining rooms at this time, but I assure you that it will only be when we are ready and feel confident that we can keep our guests and team safe.”

Michael Lennox, Electric Hospitality

“To protect the health and safety of our staff, guests, and beloved Atlanta community, we chose to close our restaurants Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall, Golden Eagle, and Muchacho on March 16. Reopening is not a decision we will rush into, and we plan to remain closed for the time being to safeguard the wellbeing of our staff and guests. Our team is working to plan for a safe reopening, and we’re looking forward to serving you when that day finally arrives. Until then, we encourage you to support the Atlanta restaurant community through initiatives like our sister nonprofit ATLFAMILYMEAL, with a mission to feed, nourish, and support metro Atlanta’s hospitality workers. So far, we’ve delivered over 10,000 free meals to hospitality workers and plan to continue growing to meet the need for as long as the need exists. Thank you for your continued support. Stay healthy and be well, Atlanta. We’ll be in touch with you on where we go from here.”

Industry Experts:

Jaci Lund, Treebird Branding

“Governor Kemp’s decision seems premature and potentially quite dangerous to all Georgians. We haven’t seen a decline in the numbers yet and encouraging citizens to flaunt what the scientists and medical professionals are saying will likely result in another spike, leading to more strain on our already overextended hospitals and healthcare workers and, sadly, more deaths. I think that restaurants with the ability to prepare food safely should be allowed to continue to provide take-out and curbside pick-up, but avoid any dining in until at least the middle of May. This will not only help prevent more contracted cases but also stem the rising tide of public outrage at what many perceive to be reckless and life-threatening behavior. Of course, we all want to get back to work and business as usual, but doing so prematurely risks extending our current unfortunate situation, not shortening it.”

Doug Brandenburg, Premier Grease

“Without testing, how are we in any better shape than we were five weeks ago? Why did we even close in the first place? What was the point? This is pure greed over science and safety. [Gov. Kemp] can open up the state but that doesn’t mean we will be joining in it.”

Amanda Greery, ECOLAB

“I personally feel it’s premature to reopen and the safety of our employees and your customers are number one, but ECOLAB Pest Division is here for you for both disinfection services and pest elimination to keep your business safe for your customers.”


[Editor’s note: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is rapidly evolving as is its effect on Atlanta, and the City’s businesses and its residents. Click here for What Now Atlanta’s ongoing coverage of the crisis. For guidance and updates on the pandemic, please visit the C.D.C. website.]

[Disclosure: The listed industry experts are What Now Atlanta Preferred Partners]

Caleb J. Spivak

Caleb J. Spivak (CJS) is the Founder of What Now Media Group, Inc., the publisher of What Now Atlanta and What Now Los Angeles.
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Eric
5 months ago

You go, Hugh! Well said!

jay
5 months ago

Restaurants will not be bullied by Kemp or Trump into reopening. We still have to increase testing and tracing and have cases lower for 14 straight days to consider. So any restaurant opening puts their employees and customers at risk of catching a highly contagious virus. Perhaps they could open with social distancing in place to limited crowds. But it’s up to them to figure out it and consult with the CDC and health experts, of which Trump and Kemp are not

CloseOTP
5 months ago

So happy to see these establishments doing the right thing. I’m curious what national chain restaurants will do whether fast food or sit down. I imagine Waffle House will open, but their restaurants are so small, they’d only be able to sit 3 or 4 tables at a time. Whether local or chain, I plan to spend my money on those places that care for its employees. And ones opening Monday clearly prove they don’t care for its employees. When Lindsey Graham questions what Kemp is doing, you know the world is a messed up place!!

Mike B
5 months ago

Thank you restaurants for being smarter than our 3rd grade leader.

hudson
5 months ago

Some great feedback from some very well respected and professional restaurant owners…all except Hugh. Thank you for showing your true colors and I will think twice before dining in one of your restaurants again.

Tony Eng
5 months ago

Not my comment but sharing the thought that Kemp might be doing this to excise people off the unemployment list – you can’t apply if you voluntarily chose not to work. Hopefully someone looks into this and prevents it.

https://www.facebook.com/500062484/posts/10158134349907485/?d=n

David
5 months ago
Reply to  Tony Eng

Spot on Tony…this is absolutely the facts of the matter. Kemp is getting these people off the unemployment rolls because he’s afraid it will bankrupt the state. They’re expendable from a health perspective and he gets to claim that they had a choice to go back to work and therefore, they don’t qualify for the benefits. Just dirty political tricks at its finest.

I.P.30307since1987!
4 months ago
Reply to  David

You hit the nail on the head.

David
5 months ago

good…Hugh nor I want or need your MAGA kind anywhere near his fine establishments. Stay in John’s Creek!

ZB
4 months ago

My understanding is the whole point of lockdown was not to keep people from catching the virus but to keep the medical system from being overwhelmed by the inevitable transmission of the virus those likely to be hospitalized. We have more information now on who is more at risk for being hospitalized which should inform which groups of people should be more diligent about staying locked down. I assume this was the path we chose because the other lockdown option proposed by the Imperial College (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf) – known as suppression – required lockdowns to last 12-18 months until a vaccine… Read more »

I.P.30307since1987!
4 months ago
Reply to  ZB

You made some good points.
I am pretty connected to the restaurant industry, and to open dining rooms under the new guidelines is not going to be profitable for many– employees as well as employers.
The extra federal $600 was just thrown out there with no oversight or consideration, which I think was a big mistake. PPP was a total failure as well.
I actually don’t blame the service industry to be hesitant to go back to work…

I.P.30307since1987!
4 months ago

Hey Caleb.
Now might not be the time, but it would be great if you made the comments section more user-friendly.
Signing in every time is a bit tedious– maybe we could just register one time.
Would also be nice to have a thumbs-up/down option…

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