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Many cities banning dine-in service, closing other businesses
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Customers of the Collegiate Grill wait for their food orders outside Wednesday, March 25, 2020, as the Gainesville City Council passed a resolution Monday restricting restaurants and bars to takeout service only. - photo by Scott Rogers

Although Gov. Brian Kemp had not issued a statewide closure of dining rooms in restaurants as of Wednesday afternoon, Hall County and many of its cities have issued their own restrictions.

In addition, the Georgia Department of Public Health is asking restaurants to move to takeout or delivery only.

The Department of Public Health has classified COVID-19 as an “imminent health hazard,” which is “a product, practice, circumstance, or event that may pose a significant risk of injury or illness to food service employees or to members of the public if not promptly corrected or halted.”

“Because of this, and in order to protect members of the public, dining areas should be closed until further notice,” according to the DPH guidance for food service businesses. “Take out, drive-thru, delivery, or third-party delivery options should be the only means by which consumers can obtain food.”

DPH is asking for voluntary compliance with its recommendations, but in cities and counties that have passed bans on dining in, local code enforcement or law enforcement can issue citations.

Gainesville, Oakwood, Flowery Branch, Braselton and Hall County have required restaurants and bars to close their dining rooms. Kemp has required bars and nightclubs to close statewide.

Several cities are also closing other businesses where people gather such as fitness centers and movie theaters. Oakwood and Braselton voted to close those businesses Wednesday.

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Atlas Pizza gets their curb-side pick-up station prepared Wednesday, March 25, 2020, for lunch service. Since the Gainesville City Council passed a resolution Monday restricting restaurants and bars to takeout service only, restaurants in downtown Gainesville are learning to serve their customers to-go orders on the sidewalk. - photo by Scott Rogers

Although Lula officials have not yet required restaurants there to close down their dining rooms, At the Tracks closed its dining room starting March 19. The Main Street restaurant is offering takeout, curbside pickup and delivery.

Owner Kim Johnson said closing the dining room was the safest choice.

“We’re doing our part. It’s just not a good idea to expose so many people,” Johnson said. “Just in case, we’re just erring on the side of caution.”

Johnson said she has been following Kemp’s statements about the virus and keeping up with local governments’ responses.

“I know we’re not required to actually close everything down, but we just chose to do this to be responsible,” she said. “I’m hoping we’ll set an example for other people by doing this, to really take note of this and be serious about it.”

Although the Flowery Branch City Council didn’t pass restrictions until March 24 requiring restaurants to close their dining rooms, La Casa del Taco announced on March 22 it would do so. The restaurant is still doing takeout, curbside pickup and delivery. 

Owner Oscar Munoz Jr. said the restaurant did not want to contribute to the spread of the virus.

“We’re following the health professionals’ advice. It’s better to just close down and help them stop the spread of this before it gets worse around the area,” he said. 

Munoz said he sees stopping the virus as a community effort.

“Hopefully, everyone does their part in stopping the spread and we can get through this,” he said.


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