Even With Permission From The State, Atlanta’s Small Businesses Struggling With Decision To Reopen

'We are in an extremely tough position right now because the government has said it is OK to open, but the C.D.C. and the mayor have strongly advised against it,' says MADabolic gym Owner Abby Closs.
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It’s been a week since Atlanta gyms were given the green light by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to reopen after closing down in early-April to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But while the legal permission to reopen is there, local business operators are getting mixed messages from other government officials and customers alike on whether or not to do so.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in opposition to Kemp is and has been asking Atlantans to stay home even as the statewide “shelter-in-place” expired last night.

President Donald J. Trump last week said he “disagreed strongly” with Kemp’s decision to open certain businesses starting April 24, which included salons, barbershops, bowling alleys, and gyms, among others.

National gym chain LA Fitness announced in April it would reopen its Georgia gyms starting Friday, May 1 once the Governor said it was okay to do so and quickly reversed its decision after backlash from its local members.

So, if you’re Abby Closs, Franchise Owner of the boutique MADabolic gym in Old Fourth Ward, at 661 Auburn Ave NE #260, who do you listen to, and how do you strike a balance between safety and livelihood?

“We are in an extremely tough position right now because the government has said it is OK to open, but the C.D.C. and the mayor have strongly advised against it,” Closs told What Now Atlanta in an email Friday.

“We really want to reopen to save our business, but we also don’t want to contribute to the spread of COVID-19. We are reached out to daily by our clients to reopen. They lost their sense of normalcy, their stress outlet, and their way to stay in great physical shape and are excited to have it back.”

Bad Axe Throwing reopened its doors last Friday and over the course of the entire weekend only saw two customers.

Restaurants, which are allowed to reopen dining rooms as of Monday, are in most cases sticking to takeout and delivery only for the foreseeable future.

“Our staff is also hurting so badly right now,” Closs said.

“Many of them lost all of their income and are struggling to get by. We are doing our best to support them with help from the government and support from our members, but our landlord has not helped us out with rent so it is hard to help them as much as we would like.”

The City of Atlanta is proactively seeking to answer the tough questions business owners like Closs are asking in ways like conducting its COVID-19 response survey which went live Wednesday.

“This is an extremely tough decision for small business owners and I would love to shed light on the situation so that people exercise a bit more grace when criticizing businesses who choose to open,” Closs said.

“Many people are lucky that they are able to work from home and still earn a full salary. For small business owners and hourly workers, the stakes are much higher. This could have devastating, long-term effects on us.”


[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.]

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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