On Monday, March 16, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms enacted a ban on public gatherings of 50 or more people within the city limits, following the recommendations from the CDC late Sunday evening. The previous ban, instituted Sunday, did not permit gatherings of more than 250 people. By Monday evening, that new 50-person maximum capacity extended to Atlanta’s restaurants and bars through March 31.
“We know that we need to take active measures to flatten the curve. This is an unprecedented health crisis and social distancing is critical,” Bottoms says in a prepared statement. “We are following the latest CDC guidance and we will continue to follow the recommendations of our public health experts.”
Emory University professor Doctor Carlos del Rio praises the mayor’s decision in the official press release saying, “Today is 50, but tomorrow could be less. I am very happy to see the Mayor rapidly take the CDC guidance and urge people to take it seriously.”
There have been calls for Bottoms to close restaurants and bars around the city for an extended period of time to further prevent the spread of COVID-19, as is being done in cities throughout New York, California, Michigan, and Illinois. It’s unclear if she eventually plans to do so.
Eater Atlanta reached out to the mayor’s office Monday morning to ask whether closing restaurants and bars is on the table. Officials have yet to respond.
Late Monday afternoon, Dallas mayor, Eric Johnson, issued an order requiring the city’s restaurants to close dining rooms. Oregon governor, Kate Brown, ordered the closure of that state’s restaurants and bars, beginning March 17. Most states still allow for takeout and delivery.
As of publication, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has yet to proclaim a statewide ban of large public gatherings or call for restaurants and bars to close.
Atlanta restaurants and bars face tough financial and safety decisions on whether to continue operating at a reduced level, pivot to takeout only, or temporarily close, amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier on Monday, the city of Brookhaven declared a state of emergency and suspended dine-in service at restaurants and bars until March 30 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Delivery and takeout is allowed for restaurants with proper permitting.
The mayor of Athens, home to the University of Georgia, held an emergency meeting Monday night seeking approval of a daily public curfew between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. and banning gatherings of more than 50 people.
Eater continues to follow developments in this story.
Update, March 16, 10:10 p.m.: This story has been updated with new information regarding occupancy limits inside Atlanta restaurants and bars.
NOTE: The novel coronavirus situation in Georgia is fluid and ongoing. Follow Eater Atlanta for continuing coverage on COVID-19’s impact on Atlanta’s restaurant industry. Additional stories are forthcoming.