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A brown paper bag sits on a bar with a half-empty wine glass in front of it. Written in Sharpie on the bag is a message reading “Thank you for your support.”
Handwritten note on a takeout order from the Iberian Pig in Buckhead
Ryan Fleisher

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The First Spring Saturday in Atlanta Saw Crowded Parks and Empty Restaurants

Scenes from the Eastside Beltline, Piedmont Park, and at restaurants around Atlanta on Saturday, March 21

Beth McKibben is the editor and staff reporter for Eater Atlanta and has been covering food and cocktails locally and regionally for 12 years.

Last week began with Atlanta restaurants voluntarily closing dining rooms and pivoting to takeout and delivery in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19. By Thursday, March 19, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms mandated the closure of bars across the city, and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery only. Then, on Friday, Bottoms signed an order allowing the city’s restaurants to temporarily offer beer and wine to-go for off-premises consumption for the next 60 days.

As restaurants became takeout and delivery joints overnight and laid off or furloughed hundreds of employees, spring descended upon Atlanta.

Eater Atlanta photographer Ryan Fleisher set out on Saturday, March 21, to capture life along the Eastside Beltline and at a few restaurants around town on the first weekend of spring in Atlanta.

*Please practice safe and respectful social distancing measures via CDC guidelines by maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other people, not gathering in groups, and not sitting on restaurant patios to eat. Stay home if sick.

Empty parking lot at ponce city market amid COVID-19 shutdown in Atlanta on March 21

Ponce City Market is closed to the public. The parking lot would normally be filled with cars as shoppers, tourists, and diners head to the Central Food Hall or people make their way to the Eastside Beltline trail on what turned out to be a beautiful and sunny spring afternoon in Atlanta. Eater’s photographer snapped the above photo right before being asked to leave the property by security, which is restricted now to residents only.

Panoramic view of Fourth Ward Park on March 21 amid COVID-19 in Atlanta

Historic Fourth Ward Park along the Eastside Beltline trail on Saturday, March 21, with people enjoying the sun and 80-degree temperatures on the first weekend of spring. Despite warnings not to gather in groups of ten or more, the trail and restaurant patios were crowded for most of the day.

A crowded crosswalk at Monroe and 10th street in midtown where the beltline begins, filled with pedestrians and cyclists amid COvid 19

A busy crosswalk at 10th Street and Monroe Drive where Piedmont Park connects to the Eastside trail in Midtown on Saturday, March 21.

Groups of people picnics on the meadow at Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta COVID-19
Picnickers at the meadow in Piedmont Park on March 21, in Atlanta

The meadow at Piedmont Park in Midtown near Park Tavern was a popular picnic spot on Saturday, March 21.

By Saturday evening, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 485 in Georgia, with 14 deaths.

Do not Enter Signs posted on the door at 8ARM on Ponce de Leon Avenue near Ponce City Market amid COVID-19
Bon Ton on Myrtle Street in Midtown Atlanta curbside pickup tent

Usually packed with diners on Saturday for brunch, dinner, and cocktails, 8ARM on Ponce de Leon Avenue near Ponce City Market and Bon Ton on Myrtle Street in Midtown were closed and offering only curbside pick-up, including wine and beer.

Grana in Piedmont Heights amid COVId-19 on March 21
Grana kitchen working on takeout order on March 21 in Piedmont Heights

What should be a busy first weekend in business for Grana, the newly opened Italian restaurant and pizzeria from The White Bull chef Pat Pascarella, sees the restaurant’s few employees bagging up takeout orders. The Piedmont Heights restaurant officially opened late last week, near Fat Matt’s Rib Shack on Piedmont Avenue.

Table of takeout bag orders at Iberian Pig in Buckhead

A row of takeout orders line a table inside the dining room at the Iberian Pig in Buckhead on Saturday, March 21. The second location of the Decatur-based Spanish tapas restaurant opened last May at the 22-story Hanover Buckhead Village complex on Roswell Road.

Hundreds of bottles of wine on tables inside Storico Fresco in Buckhead Atlanta amid COVID-19 on March 21
Employees air hugging at Storico Fresco in Buckhead Atlanta amid COVID-19 march 21

Storico Fresco Alimentari e Ristorante in Buckhead has become a makeshift wine shop, while also operating as a takeout joint. Employees stack tables with hundreds of bottles of Italian wine, and the cold cases still carry charcuterie, cheeses, and fresh pastas from the restaurant’s market.

Two people walking by Halfway Crooks Beer on Georgia Avenue in Summerhill Atlanta on March 21 amid COVID-19
Two people walking into Little Bear on Georgia Avenue in Summerhill Atlanta to grab takeout amid COVID-19 on March 21

The burgeoning dining district along Georgia Avenue in Summerhill was quiet on Saturday evening, as people grabbed six packs from Halfway Crooks Beer to-go or dinner from chef Jarrett Stieber’s Little Bear across the street. Little Bear opened on February 26, and was only open for full-service dining for a little over two weeks before the mandatory shutdown imposed on restaurants and bars last week by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

People walking the beginning at of the Eastside Beltline near the trail head at Monroe Drive march 21 amid COVID-19

People walking the beginning of the Eastside Beltline near the trailhead at Monroe Drive in Midtown on Saturday, March 21, as the number of COVID-19 cases grew to nearly 500 people statewide by the evening.

[Update] On Monday, March 23, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms enacted a “stay-at-home” order for city residents through Tuesday, April 7, to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Monday’s 7 p.m. update from the Georgia Department of Public Health, there were 800 confirmed cases, with 26 reported deaths.

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.

Check the Georgia Department of Public Health website for guidance and twice-daily updates on the latest number of reported COVID-19 cases.

Across the Street

668 Highland Avenue Northeast, , GA 30312 (404) 781-0931

Ponce City Market

675 North Avenue Northeast, , GA 30308 (404) 900-7900 Visit Website

Bon Ton

674 Myrtle Street Northeast, , GA 30308 (404) 996-6177 Visit Website


710 Ponce De Leon Avenue Northeast, , GA 30306 Visit Website

Halfway Crooks Beer

60 Georgia Avenue Southeast, , GA 30312 (678) 705-5530 Visit Website

Park Tavern

500 10th Street Northeast, , GA 30309 (404) 249-0001 Visit Website

Storico Fresco Alimentari e Ristorante

3167 Peachtree Road Northeast, , GA 30305 (404) 500-2181 Visit Website

Iberian Pig

121 Sycamore Street, , GA 30030 (404) 371-8800 Visit Website

The White Bull

123 East Court Square, , GA 30030 (404) 600-5649 Visit Website
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