Junior’s Pizza wife-and-husband owners Jennifer and Alex Aton. Her nickname is Junior. CONTRIBUTED BY MIA YAKEL
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Junior’s Pizza closes after customers disregard COVID-19 safety protocols

Like many metro Atlanta restaurateurs, Junior’s Pizza husband-and-wife owners Alex and Jennifer Aton adjusted their operation to try to stay open even as the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the country. 

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

On March 16, they ceased dine-in service at the pizza joint in Summerhill and became open for takeout only. Two days later, they went cashless as another safety precaution. On Monday, Jennifer Aton posted signage at the front door outlining the dos and don’ts for patronizing Junior’s. Yet repeated customer disregard for the restaurant’s safety policies has forced the Atons to lock doors and call it quits until further notice. 

“It goes back starting two weeks ago,” said Jennifer Aton, recounting an episode with a customer who “had her used napkins that she had been coughing into and wiping her face in” attempt to put the napkins on the restaurant’s expo line. “I had to bat them off the counter and say, ‘No.’ She turned around and screamed (an obscenity) at me.” 

» DINING TEAM: How coronavirus will change dining coverage

Aton described other incidents, including with healthcare workers wearing hospital scrubs. “Twice we had nurses come in and disregard our rules and say, ‘I have already been exposed to it, so I don’t care.’” 

The tipping point came Monday night when a customer attempted to hand the now cashless establishment a $5 bill. “He tried to hand it to an employee and said it was fine and this whole thing was overblown. We insisted that he drop it in the tip jar so we could sanitize it. He held it up and coughed on it and said, ‘Look, it’s fine. It doesn’t have any corona on it.’ My husband told him to please leave and take the money with him.” 

Tuesday night, they made the decision to close. They posted the announcement Wednesday on Instagram.

The couple opened their counter service New York-style pizza concept only last year. The brick and mortar was the grown up version of the Atons’ original pop-up turned delivery business. 

“Alex has worked open to close every day since the day we opened,” Aton said. “On top of all of that, the stress that we might be exposed to this and trying to make adults follow rules -- it’s just too much.”

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About the Author

Ligaya Figueras
Ligaya Figueras
Ligaya Figueras joined the AJC as its food and dining editor in 2015.
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