Restaurants & customers who use dine-in service during COVID-19 crisis face criticism


Watch the full interview with Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson below

Watch the full interview with AU Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule below

Columbia County restaurants that allow dine-in eating are facing criticism on social media and so are the people who use the service.

This video below was posted to Facebook this the weekend. It shows the Evans, GA Applebee’s. The video has hundreds of comments and shares.

Newschannel 6’s Ashley Osborne looked into the situation. She talked to Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson, Augusta University Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule and contacted Applebee’s corporate.

Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson says restaurants can still allow dine- in under the new rules, but only if social distancing guidelines can be met.

“If you have more than 10 people, in a certain establishment, they must maintain the 6 foot distance rule,” Johnson says.

Columbia County Code enforcement has investigated 40 reports since the new rule took effect.

“Almost all of the businesses that we’ve been to we found in compliance to begin with, and those that were out of compliance really didn’t understand the rule and now that it’s been explained to them they have gotten into compliance,” Johnson explains.

NewsChannel 6 requested the full list of businesses Columbia County Code Enforcement has looked into.

Columbia County Code Enforcement COVID-19 Investigations_Page1
Columbia County Code Enforcement COVID-19 Investigations_Page 2

If a restaurant repeatedly fails to comply, local government can take action.

“We think in this case that we could actually pull their alcohol license or we could pull their business license if they’re not following the rules,” Johnson says.

Some on social media question how is eating at a restaurant different from shopping in a store? Augusta University Chief Medical Officer Dr. Philip Coule explains why dining- in at a restaurant increases your risk of exposure to COVID-19.

“In a grocery store setting, you’re going in, you’re getting your stuff and you’re leaving,” Dr. Coule points out. “As opposed to in a sit-down restaurant, [there] tends to be more prolonged contact.”

Dr. Coule says taking getting food to- go or cooking at home provides less of a risk.

“Eating in a dine- in restaurant right now is inconsistent with CDC guidelines for limiting the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Coule says.

NewsChannel 6 also called the Applebee’s in Evans. The manager told us he is unable to comment on the topic and directed us to their corporate offices. The email below shows the full list of questions we sent to Applebee’s.

Email from NewsChannel 6 reporter Ashley Osborne to Applebee’s Corporate

“Our number one priority continues to be the health and well-being of our teams, guests and the neighborhoods we serve. We’re adhering to all federal, state and local mandates that have been established for operating restaurants at this time. We have also enhanced our in-restaurant procedures with team member education and  heightened cleaning and disinfection requirements. In locations where dine-in is still an option, like in Evans, we’ve also taken additional precautions for our dine-in guests, removing every other table, and limiting and spacing barstools to adhere to social distancing recommendations and to do our part in helping to prevent the spread of the virus.”

– quote attributable to Neal Musmanno, Director of Operations for Apple American Group, an Applebee’s franchisee.

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