In addition to our normal news coverage, What Now Atlanta is tracking ways Atlanta’s businesses are adapting to the novel coronavirus and the challenges it brings to brick-and-mortars.
The Cheetah Lounge and its restaurant Alluvia are set to reopen at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 1, Jack Braglia, the entertainment venue’s vice president, confirmed with What Now Atlanta (WNA) in a telephone conversation Wednesday.
Braglia and his team—absent of 85-year-old Owner Bill Hagood, who earlier this week told WNA he’s been self-isolating in his California home for 60 days to ride out COVID-19—were originally planning on reopening The Cheetah Wednesday, May 20.
Those plans got foiled when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday afternoon announced that bars, night clubs, and live entertainment venues, would no longer be able to reopen May 15, but instead, on May 31.
With the exception of these three business-types, all other “non-essential” businesses that in early-April were forced to temporarily closed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, have been allowed to reopen.
The Cheetah voluntarily closed its doors, at 887 Spring St. NW, in mid-March, and Braglia and his team have since been making the necessary preparations to reopen.
Unlike the state-issued reopening guidelines for restaurants and beauty storefronts, there aren’t any specific guidance for venues like The Cheetah, according to Braglia.
“We’re determining the necessary safety measures on our own, but we’re looking at the guidelines issued for other businesses,” Braglia said.
“Since the entertainers are not actually serving food, salons and barbershops are the closest-related services, so we’re looking at those reopening guidelines. I got a haircut to see how that was being handled, and to see what learnings could be applied to our business.”
Braglia and his team have been “actively rearranging” the facility to ensure social distancing and other safeguards are in place.
Upon entering The Cheetah, patrons will have a no-contact temperature scan taken and will be offered personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks which wearing will be optional.
Plexiglass barriers are being erected between seating areas and at the front entrance.
On stage, the strippers will be spread out, six feet apart, and wearing “sexy” gloves and masks.
“Our business is already contactless, and wearing gloves and masks can creatively be made sexy and mysterious.”
For example, the strippers won’t be wearing “sterile” blue medical masks. Instead, Braglia will provide the dancers “C.D.C.-approved face coverings” but with enhancements like a veil.
“At restaurants, servers are wearing these blue masks, and you feel like you’re eating at a hospital,” Braglia said.
“It detracts from the dining out experience. Maybe our entertainers will wear a veil over the mask.”
But reopening, and reopening quickly, is The Cheetah’s only option for being viable according to Braglia.
The Cheetah, along with other strip clubs around the country, was unable to get approved for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program which is primarily designed as a mechanism to keep employees of temporarily-shuttered businesses on the payroll.
“We have been discriminated by the Small Business Administration and were not able to get a loan because of the nature of the business,” Braglia said.
“We’re a legitimate tax-paying business that follows all the rules and yet our loan application has been rejected. That would have certainly helped our entertainers weather the storm here, but that didn’t happen so here we are. At the same time, we’re not wanting to rush and reopen without safety as our top priority.”
[Featured Photo: Thom Abbott]
[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.]