With protests expected to continue into the weekend throughout Atlanta, city officials have extended the curfew through Sunday, June 7. Curfew begins at 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday nights until sunrise, and at 8 p.m. through sunrise on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings.
As with the previous nights, people seeking medical attention, members of the working press, or people traveling to and from work or engaged in work activities after the curfew begins will not be subject to arrest by the Atlanta Police Department. The order also exempts the city’s homeless population.
This latest round of curfews were prompted by six consecutive days of protests in Atlanta over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. Several restaurants in downtown Atlanta and Buckhead were damaged by a small group of people during last weekend’s protests. The curfews are intended to keep people off the streets after dark and prevent further damage to property.
City of Atlanta curfew continues at 9:00 p.m. tonight and Thursday night. An 8:00 p.m. to sunrise curfew is effective Friday (6/5), Saturday (6/6) & Sunday (6/7). Exceptions apply to people seeking medical help, working, first responders & homeless. Call @ATL311 for details. pic.twitter.com/RZifP9dFOQ— City of Atlanta, GA (@CityofAtlanta) June 3, 2020
Atlanta is one of a number of U.S. cities, including Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York, and Miami, to issue nightly curfews with National Guard troops deployed to help deal with the civil unrest. Last Saturday, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order allowing nearly 3,000 National Guard troops to deploy in order to assist local and state law enforcement in Atlanta during the protests.
However, some experts are calling into question the effectiveness of curfews during protests; coupled with increased police presence to enforce them, they say these curfews could cause further harm to communities of color and lead to more confrontational policing methods.
But these curfews are putting further financial strain on restaurants and bars already reeling from state-mandated closures and reduced capacity requirements due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Restaurants and recently opened bars across Atlanta have been forced to close earlier than planned throughout the week in order to provide employees time to thoroughly clean establishments and return home before curfew kicks off.
Joy Huffman, the owner of Sweet Auburn bar and restaurant Clue’s and Cocktails, says she and her staff have been passing out water to protesters this week, and plan to feed people at protests on Saturday.
“We have been actively involved with the marches and trying to support however we can. The curfew is another blow to our business,” Huffman tells Eater Atlanta. “Although we understand why it has been instated, we are not excited about it, especially since we are trying to build momentum for people to return to dining out. This is just a tough time for the restaurant industry, and it seems like we can’t catch a break.”
Huffman posted a sign to the front window of the business on Auburn Avenue showing solidarity for the protesters. She says she’s received “mixed feedback” on it.
For chefs like Craig Richards, the curfew means delaying the planned reopening of his Midtown restaurant, Lyla Lila, for dine-in service until further notice. Lyla Lila was set to reopen Wednesday evening.
“I’ve got a cooler full of food right now. We’ve been planning this opening for a month. We’re already coming back with a smaller staff. We’re building out a patio because we know people feel more comfortable dining outside,” the chef says. “With these curfews, it doesn’t make sense to reopen this week. We might be able to get a first turn in before having to close so people can get home, but it’s not worth it or fair to our staff to put them under that much pressure for an hour or so of service.”
Like so many restaurants, Whiskey Bird in the Morningside neighborhood east of Midtown is just trying to stay afloat amid the ongoing health crisis. It’s doing a brisk to-go business from its now permanent takeout operation called Little Bird. Whiskey Bird was set to reopen its patio on Wednesday evening for dine-in service, the first time the restaurant has served people on site since March. The extended curfew in the city changed those plans.
“It’s tough to tell how this will affect our sales and operations at this point in time. We are doing the best we can to figure things out by the day and by the hour while trying to protect our staff and our guests,” a representative speaking on behalf of Whiskey Bird says.
Despite the disruptions caused by these curfews, restaurants around Atlanta continue expressing support for the protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement. Many restaurants are sharing links to bail funds, closing in solidarity or to attend rallies, sending hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer to protesters at marches around the city, donating to social justice nonprofits or victims’ families, and reminding Atlantans to vote next Tuesday in the Georgia primary.