Metro Atlanta restaurants reopen dining rooms

Restaurants around metro Atlanta have begun to reopen dining rooms today as restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic are lifted. Restaurants will be allowed to operate with in-person dining as long as they follow a set of 39 guidelines laid out by the state government, which include a requirement that all employees wear masks, a maximum of 10 customers per 500 square feet of floor space and a maximum of six diners per table.

AJC reporters and photographers are capturing the scenes at restaurants opening for business on April 27.

District manager Harry Decker sorts through signs on Saturday, April 25, 2020, for social distancing efforts as restaurant staff prepare to reopen the restaurant at Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar in Decatur. Gov. Brian Kemp announced that movie theaters and restaurant dining rooms can reopen Monday, April 27, following guidelines. 

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4 p.m. - In Gwinnett County, many locally-owned restaurants kept their dining rooms closed Monday, citing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and health concerns for employees and customers.

Instead, they're continuing with modified operations. Some that have remained open have adapted to their new limitations by introducing a menu of grocery items -- Universal Joint and Local Republic in downtown Lawrenceville offers items like fresh produce, coffee and toilet paper for order alongside take-out dishes and family-style meals.

>> Follow all the AJC’s coronavirus coverage here

3:30 p.m. - More than 50 restaurant owners, most in metro Atlanta, have started the hashtag #GAHospitalityTogether in opposition to reopening restaurant dining rooms today.

The group plans to publish a full-page ad Tuesday about their position.

“We agree that it’s in the best interest of our employees, our guests, our community, and our industry to keep our dining room closed at this time,” it reads.

The document was drafted by Ryan Pernice of RO Hospitality, which operates Table & Main and Osteria Mattone in Roswell and Coalition Food and Beverage in Alpharetta.

Read more about the group and its position here.

2:50 p.m. - Georgia locations of some national restaurant chains are reopening their dining rooms today.

Outback Steakhouse on Barrett Parkway in Kennesaw has also reopened for sit-in service.

“ ... We’re conducting daily staff wellness checks to make sure no one works sick and all team members will wear face coverings as required by the state,” said Outback corporate spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts. “We’re sanitizing high-contact areas frequently and have enhanced our handwashing protocols. All our team members have also been re-certified in safe food handling.”

1:30 p.m - Restaurant group Buckhead Life is making plans to reopen all of its restaurants for dine-in service. It will also launch no-contact curbside takeout at all of its restaurants beginning Wednesday.

The launch will span three or four days, said group president Niko Karatassos.

Buckhead Life operates Atlanta Fish Market, Bistro Niko, Buckhead Diner, Chops Lobster Bar, Corner Café, Kyma and Pricci. It also operates restaurants in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Boca Raton.

Brothers Pano I. (left) and Niko Karatassos inside the Atlanta Fish Market, which also houses the offices for the Buckhead Life Group. 

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Prior to the shutdown, Buckhead Life numbered 1,100 employees across its seven restaurants. Karatassos said that employees have been given a choice whether they wish to come back. “If they want to stay to shelter in place, they can stay and shelter in place. It’s an option.”

12:45 p.m - Some metro restaurants are planning to open for eat-in dining later this week.

Smokey Bones, a bar and fire grill restaurant chain, plans to open three of its Georgia locations for in-person dining on Wednesday, the company announced Monday.

The restaurants in Peachtree City, Stonecrest and Columbus will be the first Smokey Bones locations in the country to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. The chain has 60 eateries in 16 states.

Smokey Bones announced the decision Monday.

Credit: Courtesy / Smokey Bones

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Credit: Courtesy / Smokey Bones

The reopening allows Smokey Bones to begin recalling furloughed employees, but the company did not say how many people would go back to work.

The locations will continue to offer takeout, delivery and curbside pick-up options. The chain’s fourth Georgia location, at the Mall of Georgia in Gwinnett County, is temporarily closed.

Noon -1920 Tavern in Roswell is fully booked for dinner, Monday, with spaced out seating, said co-owner Jenna Aronowitz.

The restaurant will seat 10 people in the front of the establishment and 10 in the back, she said.
The Canton Street restaurant has thermometers to take patrons' temperatures; hand sanitizer on each table; masks for staff and more, she said.
"It's a lot of responsibility and we are taking it seriously," she said. 
Aronowitz owns 1920 with her husband Howard. She said their 23 employees received full pay during the restaurant's partial closure, and with community support, the restaurant has been able to continue operating.

The owners have also heard from some people who think the eatery reopened too soon.
"I've learned to grow a thick skin," she said. "I have to feed my family. My employees are like family. I told them, 'I'm investing in you.' And now they're here ready to go."
Roswell residents, Sue and David Harwell were regular dine-in customers at 1920 before the coronavirus pandemic, and might have dinner there Monday evening to show support for the restaurant owners. 
"That's the only reason we would consider going at all – because I am still thinking it's too soon [to eat out]," said Sue Harwell. "They are amazing people who treat customers like family."

11:35 a.m.Jason's Deli will reopen 18 of its 19 Georgia locations for dine-in service today; the lone restaurant remaining closed is the Duluth location on Medlock Bridge Road.

Though the dining rooms will be open, self-service will not be allowed at the deli chain's salad bars, as required by state guidelines. Customers will still be able to place custom orders from the salad bar which will be prepared to order by Jason's Deli employees.

11:20 a.m. - Marietta restaurant Johnnie MacCracken's will begin service at 3 p.m. today with a "very soft opening." The restaurant said on its Facebook page that the next phase of this pandemic consists of "economic stresses where over 30% of restaurants could be erased after everything is said and done."
Customers who come to the restaurant will find tables and bar stools have been spaced apart to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Staff will prepare items from scratch for a limited menu until the restaurant can expand its options.

Owner Gary Leake previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the restaurant will soon transition to this type of service as a permanent business model. The message written on the restaurant's Facebook page notes it expects its decision to reopen for dine-in service will be met with "criticism.
"Please understand that we feel we must go forward," the restaurant said. "Please understand we feel we must take this step going forward adhering to the strict guidelines provided. We appreciate the support and encouraging words received during this difficult time and are excited to see all of you again just not all at the same time."

10:45 a.m. - Business partners Rich Clark and Jon Schwenk have decided to open Hugo's Oyster Bar in Roswell and C&S Seafood & Oyster Bar in Vinings for full service.

The Roswell location of C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar will not be reopening.

Seating at At Hugo's and C&S will be limited to 50 people at one time, 25% less than allowed by the state square footage guidelines.

Both restaurants are scheduled to open today at 4 p.m. As of early this morning, C&S in Vinings had 40 reservations. Hugo’s had 20. Dining is by reservation only.

Clark said that all but four of its 115 employees are returning to work. “My people, at least, wanted to go back to work,” he said. The employees who opted not to return were told they could come back when they want, Clark said.

9:30 a.m.Moe's Original BBQ in Midtown is the latest restaurant to announce it is reopening for sit-in diners.

A customer enters Moe’s Original BBQ Monday. 

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From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. the eatery’s dining room and patio will be open for seating.

Moe's BBQ joins Bad Daddy's Burger Bar, Roaster's, Chronic Tacos Alpharetta and others in reopening dining rooms today. Follow the AJC's full list of reopenings here.

Waffle House opens as ‘new restaurant world’ begins today at Glenwood location in Atlanta.


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7:08 a.m. - Some metro Atlanta Waffle House locations have already begun opening their dining rooms, including the Glenwood location in the photograph above from AJC photographer John Spink.


Read the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition

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