Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last Wednesday issued an executive order that will eliminate state-wide restrictions on gathering bans and will reduce distance requirements for persons at restaurants, bars, movie theaters and fitness facilities.
The executive order becomes effective on Thursday, April 8.
In a story published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gov. Kemp was quoted as saying lifting the restrictions was a way to return to “normal life” after cases state-wide have reduced and millions have been vaccinated.
Kemp also said businesses couldn’t survive an extension of economic limits.
The executive order relaxes spacing requirements and removes a 50 attendee cap on in-person gatherings but continues to order that hygiene rules, including servers still wearing masks, will stay in place.
Madison City Manager David Nunn said Tuesday the city was aware of the executive order and would follow the state’s lead. “We can’t do more than the state,” Nunn said. “For all intents and purposes we will probably go along with what the state does.”
Pat Reams, owner of the Madison Chophouse Grille, a Madison staple on Main Street, said the restaurant welcomed the news but it would continue to practice what he considered safe distancing requirements with his employees and would follow all hygiene measures the establishment has had in place since the beginning of the shutdown. “We’re going to keep our distance until we feel comfortable,” he said.
Reams said the announcement of the lift on spacing requirements was a welcomed sign that things might be returning to some sense of normalcy. “My personal opinion is it’s getting better and by Fall we’ll be back to normal.”
Reams said when the shutdown began he continued to pay employees and lost approximately $60,000 in three months. “We should have closed,” he said. However, he said he felt responsibility to his staff. “We stayed open because my employees needed a pay check. When an employee makes a commitment to me, I make a commitment to them.”
Mike Torino, CEO of Amici’s, said the restaurant company was “pleased at Gov. Kemp’s approach to the restaurant industry” and that Amici’s “looks forward to resuming full operations.”
However, Torino said the company was going to continue distance requirements for customers and staff until COVID-19 conditions improve. “We are going to ease into it over a period of time,” he said.
Nunn said the city would forego any Memorial Day celebrations but will have Fourth of July fireworks. The annual event, cancelled last year, will mark the first large gathering the city has organized since the COVID-19 virus shutdown.
“That will be the first. We haven’t had any festivals or tours or anything like that,” he said.