As restaurants around Atlanta reopen for dine-in service, several located within the Old Fourth Ward signed a pledge to follow safety measures that go above and beyond the 39 reopening requirements mandated by the state.
The Old Fourth Ward Business Association (O4WBA) created a COVID-19 task force that includes owners like Keaton Hong of Kea Beverages, Matt Ruppert of Noni’s Deli, Sarah Kim of Our Bar ATL, and Johnny Martinez of Joystick Gamebar and Georgia Beer Garden. The group developed a voluntary safety plan for businesses and restaurants to follow during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses can choose to implement one or more of the three tiers in the safety plan, which closely follows the five-phase reopening plan created by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
For restaurants, the pledge features additional safety measures, like requiring masks and temperature checks for customers, providing lids and straws for drinks at bars, and installing an alarm to remind employees to regularly sanitize high-touch surfaces and wash their hands.
“Our Pledge includes 25 health and safety measures, which were informed by Our Bar ATL’s April Health Promise to the Community, guidance put out by the Georgia State Board of Cosmetologists and Barbers, the CDC, and best practices from other cities and countries,” O4WBA executive director Emma Tinsley tells Eater Atlanta. “Many of the measures are protocols that businesses were already considering putting in place and either extend or help to clarify the Governor’s suggested measures.”
The Old Fourth Ward Pledge to Public Health also provides sources for businesses to purchase PPE safety gear for employees, COVID-19 educational forums, and a certificate for the front window with a QR code to scan via smart phone listing the health and safety measures.
“It was important for us to create this pledge with multiple tiers of safety measures for our neighborhood businesses to go above and beyond state guidelines, which fall short in achieving this goal,” Ruppert says of the pledge.
So far, 35 businesses and restaurants have signed on, including Clues and Cocktails owner Joy Huffman and Brandi and Jermail Shelton of Just Add Honey Tea Company on John Wesley Dobbs and Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
Both locations of Just Add Honey are currently open for takeout only and are following the business association’s tier two requirements. Employees wear uniformed masks and must change their gloves after assisting each customer.
“We’re taking it day-by-day, in terms of reopening for ‘dine in’,” the Sheltons say. “We are working with a smaller team, and don’t want to lose anyone due to a health scare or put any team lovers at risk.”
Huffman pledged to tier one and tier two for Clues and Cocktails, which means the doors and windows to the escape bar and small plates restaurant on Auburn Avenue are always open to allow the space to be properly ventilated. Patrons are asked to wear masks, and music is kept to a reasonable level in order for servers to communicate clearly through their masks. Huffman reduced capacity by nearly 36 percent, allowing just 20 patrons inside at a time.
“We would like the city to open up permits that allow for us to have guests dine outside on the sidewalk,” Huffman tells Eater. She hopes the city will offset the extra costs of COVID-19 safety by purchasing cleaning supplies and PPE in bulk for Atlanta businesses. “The pricing the city would receive when bulk purchasing is much cheaper than any of us small businesses could ever see.”
Ruppert says he’s waiting to get the “OK” from the mayor or he sees a significant decline in COVID-19 cases over several days before reopening his Edgewood Avenue restaurant and bar.
Once reopened, Noni’s will follow the tier one and tier two guidelines of the pledge. Patrons may be required to have their temperatures checked before entering and asked to wear masks until they begin eating and drinking. Ruppert also plans to install a cuckoo clock behind the bar to help remind his staff to wash their hands, sanitize surfaces, and change into new gloves.
“We’ll be keeping several doors open to circulate fresh air, disinfecting menus after every use, blocking certain tables and bar stools to force proper distancing, imposing unidirectional traffic where possible, and a bunch of other measures listed in the pledge,” says Ruppert.
“It sounds a little strict at first, but I think there’s an appetite in Atlanta for businesses to take COVID-19 safety more seriously, especially because there’s been such a lack of leadership at the national and state level and people are (rightly) scared to get back out there. I’m hopeful this pledge will help restore a little confidence.”
Eater Atlanta reached out to Keaton Hong and Sarah Kim for comment.
Current list of participating restaurants:
The Municipal Market (Sweet Auburn Curb Market)
Stay home if sick. Check the Georgia Department of Public Health website for guidance and updates on the latest number of reported COVID-19 cases. Numbers are now updated three times a day.