Kemp order draws mixed response from local business

  • Kemp gets mixed reviews on order.
    Kemp gets mixed reviews on order.

Amidst the controversy over Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order allowing the reopening of many businesses in the state, local response is mixed.

Several businesses contacted locally are reporting they will continue following the procedures they have been for the past few weeks, while others say they will take advantage of the opportunity to resume near-normal operations under the new guidelines.

The executive order released April 23 is a 33-page document detailing the conditions that now apply to various categories of businesses. It also explains how the shelter-in-place order will change May 1, but it says that “further guidance is expected” before the April 30 expiration of the original order.

Jesup Mayor David Earl Keith said he had talked with a number of business owners in the city about the new directions. Most think this opportunity will take some time to phase in, he said.

Keith and Downtown Development Authority Director Molly O’Hearon contacted most of the businesses affected by the new directive and provided them with assistance in understanding the requirements.

“It’s going to take everybody a while to get used to the new situation,” Keith said.

He noted that the requirements are posted on the city’s website.

Some businesses contacted said they had not decided what to do yet and encouraged potential customers to contact them as the situation unfolds.

“It’s been a tough decision for everybody,” O’Hearon said.

Damon’s Famous Fingers and Wings, on West Cherry Street, has opened its dining room to limited seating, but B-Mac’s is continuing to serve only at the walk-up window.

Café Euro also is continuing to serve only drive-through and take out orders this week.

Velocity Gym is again open, with limited classes and special requirements, and the Hair Nette is taking some appointments.

Jones Kitchen and most chain restaurants in Jesup are either closed or serving only take-out orders.

Surcheros is continuing to offer take-out or curbside service only, and a representative said they are waiting on a decision at the corporate level before resuming dine-in service.

The Historic Strand Dinner Cinema is open with limited seating.

A number of businesses that had been voluntarily closed under the shelter-in-place directive have opened back up this week, though under limited conditions.

Missy Blanton of Mine & Yours Boutique said she is “breaking into it slowly.”

She said the staff is doing heavy sanitizing and minimizing the number of customers who come into the shop, as well as limiting hours to run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We are trying to accommodate customers any way we can, especially since Mother’s Day is coming up!” she said. “We’ll meet customers here or take orders and bring things out to the curb or whatever we can do.”

She said that online sales had been keeping her business afloat during the past few weeks. She hopes to be open full time again by the first of May.

According to Kemp’s new directions, gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body-art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail-care artists, estheticians and massage therapists were allowed to begin minimum basic operations last Friday.

“This means these businesses can open to the public on a limited basis, subject to restrictions,” a handout offering a condensed version of the “Reviving a Healthy Georgia” directive says.

Restaurants and private social clubs were allowed to resume dining-room service on a limited basis on Monday, along with theaters.

In-person religious services were also allowed to resume “in accordance with strict social distancing protocols.” A list of best-practice suggestions is also provided.

Bars, nightclubs, amusement parks and live-performance venues are to remain closed until May 13, when the state of emergency declared on account of the COVID-19 pandemic expires.

The order lists 21 conditions that must be met by all businesses that reopen. It includes 39 specific conditions that must be met by restaurants that choose to reopen.

Businesses are required to maintain six-foot spacing between customers and have employees wear personal protective equipment, among other precautions.

Keith said that most businesses are happy for the opportunity to reopen, but that they realize they must take care of their employees’ health and protect customers.

Bart McKinney of B-Mac’s said he is continuing to serve only take-out because the strict guidelines—including a limit of 10 people per 500 square feet—make it difficult to open his dining room. He pointed out that buffets and salad bars are specifically exempted from the new permissions.

“It’s not worth it to us to try to reopen the dining room,” he said. “I honestly don’t know how any restaurants are reopening.”

He said the current conditions are making matters difficult for his employees, because he has only 12 people working of the normal 42 employees of the restaurant.

Casey Westberry, manager at Velocity, said they are asking members with virus symptoms not to come to the gym and are enforcing spacing and hand-washing, as well as sterilization of equipment after use.

The gym plans to resume classes on May 4 but with a 10-person limit to allow for six-foot spacing.

Annette Moseley at the Hair Nette said she has only two operators working in her salon so that only two customers at a time are served. She said no one is allowed to wait inside, and masks and gloves are being used.

“We are easing back into it,” she said. “We’re being very cautious and abiding by all the rules and regulations.”