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Two people walking into Little Bear on Georgia Avenue in Summerhill Atlanta to grab takeout amid COVID-19 on March 21
Taken last March, Little Bear in Summerhill is currently only open for takeout and sidewalk dining
Ryan Fleisher

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The Latest COVID-19 Requirements for Georgia Restaurants and Bars

An updated list of the key rules and regulations concerning Georgia restaurants and bars during the COVID-19 pandemic

So much has gone down on the Atlanta dining scene since the pandemic began in March 2020. And few industries have endured more trials and tribulations over the last year than the restaurant industry.

The lack of a coordinated federal effort under the former Trump administration during the first ten months of the pandemic left local and state officials with few resources and little choice but to cobble together and create their own protection measures for communities and businesses to follow. It often led to messy and uneven responses to the public crisis — turning health and safety precautions, like wearing a mask or limiting seating capacity in a restaurant, into political issues. Georgia’s restaurant and bar owners found themselves navigating a quagmire of confusing local and state recommendations and requirements to keep patrons and employees safe and their businesses open.

Here’s a breakdown of the key state and local recommendations and requirements for Georgia restaurants and bars to follow throughout the health crisis.

Click here to read the full list of requirements and recommendations for restaurants and bars to follow in the latest executive order from Gov. Brian Kemp.

Capacity limits at restaurants

None, as of June 16, 2020.

Capacity limits at bars and nightclubs

None, as of March 16, 2021

Social distancing and seating arrangements

No social distancing measures. Restaurants and bars can continue to individually limit capacity indoors and on patios. Restaurants and bars must establish clear and unobstructed pathways for entering and exiting. If possible, physical barriers at cash registers should be put in place.

Masks for restaurant and bar employees

No longer required. Restaurants and bars can individually implement mask requirements for staff.

Masks for restaurant and bar patrons

No statewide mask mandate. City of Atlanta, along with dozens of cities and counties across Georgia, require masks in public and on government property.

By order of the governor, cities and counties are permitted to impose mask requirements in public and on government property. However, owners of restaurants and other private businesses can choose to opt out of enforcing a local mask mandate on their property. Diners should check with individual restaurants and bars for mask requirements.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends people wear masks in public, especially indoors or when not inside their homes. A federal mandate from the CDC and the Biden administration now requires masks be worn on all forms of public transportation. For Atlanta, this includes MARTA trains and buses and the Atlanta streetcar.

Cleaning measures

Tables, condiment vessels, ordering and payment devices, and other commonly touched public surfaces and devices must be sanitized between each dining party.

Sidewalk dining

Allowed in many cities across the metro area, including Atlanta, with a permit.

On-street dining

Allowed in many cities across the metro area, including Atlanta, with a permit.

To-go cocktails from restaurants and bars

A bill to make to-go cocktails from restaurants legal in Georgia passed the General Assembly. Once signed into law by the governor, restaurants will be allowed to sell up to two cocktails per takeout “entree ordered” in approved, sealed containers. To-go beer and wine from restaurants and bars permitted, as long as wine or beer is sold in the sealed, original bottle or can.

Beer, wine, liquor home delivery

Home delivery and shipping of beer, wine, and spirits from Georgia gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, brewpubs, wine shops, and package stores became legal in August. Some businesses use third party delivery services, such as Minibar Delivery or UberEats, while others provide delivery as an in-house service.

The law currently excludes the state’s breweries and distilleries from the list of businesses allowed to home deliver alcohol.

Vaccine eligibility in Georgia

All Georgians age 16 years and over regardless of health become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting Thursday, March 25. This latest vaccine expansion date was pushed up from the previously announced date of April 1. Pfizer is the only vaccine authorized for children 16 years and up, while Moderna and Johnson and Johnson are authorized for people 18 years and older.

On May 21, nine mass vaccination sites in Georgia will close. The FEMA-run mass vaccination center at Mercedes Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta will continue to operate for now. Georgia residents can also book appointments at local health departments, at hospitals and healthcare providers, and pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger, and Publix.

Residents of Georgia can preregister for the vaccine here.

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