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Georgia Governor Doesn’t Enact a Statewide Shelter In Place But Closes Bars

The governor stopped short of ordering a statewide shelter in place or limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery

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

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp instituted a ban on gatherings of ten or more people and ordered “medically fragile” individuals, including people living in long-term care facilities and those with compromised immune systems, to shelter in place for the next two weeks. During the 5 p.m. press conference, Kemp also mandated the closure of bars and nightclubs across the state, beginning at noon on Tuesday, March 24, through Monday, April 6.

The governor stopped short of ordering a statewide shelter in place for all residents or limiting the state’s restaurants to takeout and delivery. However, Kemp provided the Georgia Department of Public Health with the authority to close any business that did not comply with the ban on gatherings or for those businesses not adhering to social distancing measures of six feet or more.

Earlier in the day, there were reports Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was prepared to order a shelter in place for the city to slow the spread of COVID-19. She was apparently asked by Kemp to hold off on enacting the order until after his 5 p.m. press conference.

By Monday night, Bottoms ordered all city residents to shelter in place at their homes until Tuesday, April 7. The Beltline and essential businesses, including grocery stores and restaurants offering takeout and delivery service, remain open.

Last week began with Atlanta restaurants voluntarily closing dining rooms and pivoting to takeout and delivery in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus. By Thursday, March 19, Bottoms mandated the closure of bars across the city, and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery only. On Friday, she issued 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 of Sunday, March 22, Kemp had yet to mandate a statewide ban on large public gatherings, call for a shelter in place of any kind, or close bars and restaurant dining rooms. He told radio station Q99.7 last Wednesday he “can’t just shut things down” because a perceived overreach of his current emergency powers, provided to him by Georgia lawmakers, would cause people to “rebel” and not heed social distancing warnings.

Sunny weather and temperatures in the low 80s on Friday and Saturday had people flocking to the Eastside Beltline and restaurant patios along the trail or picnicking in parks around the city, despite warnings from the CDC not to gather in groups of more than ten.

There are 800 confirmed COVID-19 cases across Georgia, with 26 reported deaths, as of Monday’s 7 p.m. update from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

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.