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More Georgia Businesses Allowed To Reopen After Friday's First Round


The governor of Georgia says restaurants and movie theaters in his state can open up today. That's despite criticism from public health experts and President Trump, who first said he supported the governor's decision but then said the exact opposite. On Friday, tattoo parlors, gyms and barbershops in Georgia were also allowed to reopen. It's one of the first states to start lifting statewide lockdown restrictions. I'm joined now by reporter Emma Hurt from our member station WABE in Atlanta. Good morning, Emma.

EMMA HURT, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: We know that some businesses were allowed to open on Friday. And they chose not to. They just didn't feel comfortable yet. Do you get the sense that restaurants are really moving ahead with opening their doors today now that they're allowed to do so?

HURT: Yeah. So, I mean, some are, some aren't, right? But one iconic one here in Georgia that is is Waffle House. So they've been prepping for this day for weeks. And most of their 400 Georgia stores are going to open today with many closed booths, though, closed seating. You know, things are going to look different so parties can sit further apart. There won't be condiments or reusable menus on the tables. Njeri Boss is there head of PR. And she says it's almost going to be like an experiment because nobody knows how customers are going to react, I mean, if they're going to feel safe to come.

NJERI BOSS: We're saying hey, we're here. We're open. And we're here to serve our community as they need us.

HURT: And she's making the point that this has been really hard on their furloughed employees. Their takeout business hasn't been great because a lot of their business is tied to late night concerts and bars. And it's been really hard on their suppliers. And they need to try to find a way, she says, to open up safely.

MARTIN: But some restaurants are not going to do that, right? They're just going to stay closed.

HURT: Yeah. I mean, there's another iconic Georgia chain, Chick-fil-A, which is staying curbside and drive-through only. And I spent the weekend calling all over the state. And it is difficult to find other restaurants that are ready to reopen today, particularly in Atlanta, a lot of owners just saying they're not ready yet. Silvestre Serrano (ph) is one of those. He owns, with his restaurants - with his brother, sorry - several restaurants in south Georgia.

SILVESTRE SERRANO: I just think it's too early. You know, there's still a lot of cases. And there's more cases added every single day. So I just don't think it's right.

HURT: And many restaurants are bringing in some revenue, like Serrano's are, from curbside and takeout. So unlike hair salons and tattoo parlors, there's some business happening. Also worth noting, it's not easy for them to just open to dine-in. There are nearly 40 lines of regulations from the state they have to follow if they do, from masks to social distancing for customers. And on movie theaters, which are also technically allowed to open today, I also couldn't find many that were; got to remember that film studios aren't releasing any new movies right now.

MARTIN: Right. So you just mentioned those businesses that were allowed to open back up on Friday - gyms, salons, bowling alleys - that some people did show up. Is that right?

HURT: Yeah, they did. And according to the Georgia State Patrol, only two warnings were issued for violations of social distancing. I checked back in with a tattoo parlor owner in west Georgia in Columbus I had interviewed last week. And he said he had nearly 50 customers over the weekend all respecting his rules. I talked to David Rutherford (ph), who runs a bowling alley in central Georgia in the city of Warner Robins, and he said his location has also been open pretty successfully.

DAVID RUTHERFORD: Every area is different. Every state is different. Every area of the state is different. And that's, like, we have two other facilities in Georgia that we operate there we're not opening because we don't feel like we can do it safely maintaining social distancing.

HURT: And his rules are only every third lane is open. They're only taking staggered reservations so they can clean all the balls between visitors. He's saying, look, businesses should be allowed to retool their business models to try and do this safely.

MARTIN: So the governor, Brian Kemp, got pushback on this decision from President Trump, after he had said something different, but also Anthony Fauci, who both said they didn't agree with the plan. Any sense the governor might change course?

HURT: He didn't slow down any of his plans last week after that and said in an announcement, though, if we have an instance where community starts to become a hot spot, then I'll take further action. But for now, we're moving forward.

MARTIN: Reporter Emma Hurt with WABE in Atlanta, thank you.

HURT: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emma Hurt
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