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It Now Seems Atlanta Restaurants Can Remain Open After Curfew

Atlanta restaurants can apparently remain open after the 8 p.m. curfew begins this weekend, but people must remain off the streets

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

It appears Atlanta restaurants can remain open after the 8 p.m. curfew begins this weekend, but people must remain off the streets. The curfew, prompted by daily protests in Atlanta over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, runs through Sunday, June 7, and ends at sunrise each day.

After a week of nightly curfews which saw restaurants across Atlanta closing early to comply and allow patrons and employees to get home safely, the city clarified the exemptions to the order on Friday to include essential businesses. The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) says this includes restaurants. People can still travel throughout the city by car, just seemingly not by foot or any other form of transportation on the streets.

“The curfew is intended to keep the city’s sidewalks and streets clear. Restaurants should ensure that all patrons are entering their establishment via the restaurant’s designated parking area, as opposed to parking along a street and walking to the restaurant,” a statement from the GRA reads. The association recommends restaurant patrons out past curfew keep their receipt from the meal handy if they are stopped by police.

Many restaurants throughout the city have either limited or no designated parking area available to patrons. People who have a car and choose to drive to a restaurant without a parking lot must therefore find space on nearby streets or elsewhere off premise and walk. This includes employees, many of whom may be parking off site, walking to work, or riding public transportation.

Eater Atlanta reached out to GRA president Karen Bremer Friday evening to clarify how the order affects restaurants in the city that do not have attached or designated parking areas available and whether people parking off premise would technically be in violation of the curfew.

“The spirit of the order is clearly not to discourage patrons from dining in restaurants,” Bremer tells Eater.

The nightly curfews this week 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 safely.

In two separate Twitter threads Friday evening, urban planning advocacy nonprofit ThreadATL and the Atlanta Bike Coalition point to the unclear language of the order in terms of other forms of transportation after curfew begins each evening.

“This is hurtful to people who are riding MARTA and who will need to walk to and from stops — likely including some staffers at restaurants and other essential businesses. The transit agency is making the good decision to continue running past curfew time,” a tweet from ThreadATL reads.

Earlier in the week, MARTA had been suspending all bus and rail service at curfew.

The Atlanta Bike Coalition is asking the city to revise the language in the curfew to be “less damaging to people whose work shifts end or start during the curfew and who don’t have a car.” The organization suggests “motor vehicle” be changed to “any form of transportation,” including transport like MARTA and bicycles.

Eater reached out to Atlanta 311, the nonemergency arm for city of Atlanta, to ask for further clarification and comment on the curfew order in regards to restaurants.

Atlanta is one of a number of U.S. cities, including Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Philadelphia, with nightly curfews in place. Last Saturday, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order allowing nearly 3,000 National Guard troops to deploy to assist local and state law enforcement in Atlanta during the protests this week.

Some experts are calling into question the effectiveness of curfews during these protests; coupled with increased police presence to enforce them. They say the curfews could cause further harm to communities of color and lead to more confrontational policing methods.