Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s newest order relaxes some of the previous restrictions for restaurants, but it mandates bars and nightclubs remain closed until at least the end of May.
Restaurants can now allow up to 10 patrons per every 300 square feet, and party sizes at tables are now increased from six to 10 people. Groups larger than 10 at dine-in service are still not allowed.
In all, there are 39 restrictions and guidelines restaurants must adhere to.
While that will allow restaurants to generate more income, bar and club owners are still left with no way to do business. Several Augusta-area bar owners that spoke with WJBF are frustrated they are not being allowed to open and operate under the same capacity restrictions issued to restaurants.
There are other owners however, who feel their business could not safely open right now and still provided the same experience customers have come to expect.
Jason Netz owns Garden City Social in downtown Augusta, one of the largest and most popular night clubs in the area. He has been using the time during the shutdown to make renovations inside the club.
“If we were just a bar, yeah we would want to be open,” said Netz. “We would want to be with these other restaurants that are still serving alcohol,” he added. “But for us, that doesn’t allow us to fully be Garden City without opening up the nightclub,” said Netz.
Netz says he understands why the newest order prevents he and other club owners from opening. “It’s definitely wise for us to stay closed, we have a large building downtown compared to every other bar down here,” said Netz. “We have one of the largest capacities in the city that’s not an arena,” he added. “And as much as we want to open and are ready to open, you’ve got to do what’s best for your customers and patrons,” said Netz.
Restaurants with large capacity bars inside have had to make adjustments on how they serve customers.
“Well we’ve had to make some concessions to create the distance that is required,” said Chris Parrish, manager at Wild Wing Cafe on Washington Road. “So we had tables pushed up against the bar to create that space,” he added.
Customers have had to adjust to the new operations as well. “Really the minority is that people are kind of frustrated with it because it is kind of a hassle to work around, but for the most part people have appreciated what we’ve done to make sure everything is sanitary and we’re looking out for the health of everybody,” said Parrish.
For at least the next two weeks, bar and club owners will have to wait to get business back up and running.
“I am on the other side of things, I understand that we can’t open and that as much as we want to make money and get some source of income, it’s smarter for us to protect everybody else in Augusta right now,” said Netz.