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The Varsity in Midtown closes after employee tests positive for COVID-19, carhop service suspended

Customer Dave Williams (left) hands over his signed card bill to the Varsity's Fred Stewart on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at the Varsity located at 61 North Ave NW in downtown Atlanta.
Customer Dave Williams (left) hands over his signed card bill to the Varsity's Fred Stewart on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at the Varsity located at 61 North Ave NW in downtown Atlanta.

Coronavirus prompts the Atlanta-based chain to cease drive-in for first time in its 92-year history

Doors at The Varsity in Midtown have been closed today, the result of an employee testing positive for COVID-19.

The Atlanta landmark restaurant will reopen its dining room for service Friday after being thoroughly disinfected and sanitized. However, it is temporarily suspending carhop service. The company announced the change today.

“Because our area has seen an uptick in cases in recent weeks, as well as ever-changing protocols from local and state authorities, we did not feel it was prudent to continue curbside service at our Midtown location,” said the Varsity vice president John Browne in a statement.

“The operational, logistical and technological issues associated with curbside ordering and delivery have made it difficult to serve our customers safely and efficiently while maintaining adequate social distance to protect our team members,” he wrote.

The exterior of The Varsity in Midtown.
The exterior of The Varsity in Midtown.

The change will result in the layoff of 18 of the restaurant’s employees. It is the first time in the restaurant’s more than 90 years in business that its drive-in has been closed.

No date has been set for reinstating the drive-in component. “As we have seen recently, regulations locally and statewide change frequently. We can’t anticipate how our operations will be impacted in the future,” according to Browne.

Visitors to the Midtown location can still order food from the counter and dine inside. Plexiglass sheets have been installed at counters and hand sanitizer is available to guests. The restaurant has also implemented numerous other coronavirus-related safety precautions.

Despite such efforts, a Varsity team member has tested positive for COVID-19. “The test came 72 hours after their last shift. After learning that they tested positive for COVID-19, we initiated our response protocol, which includes conducting a deep cleaning of the restaurant in accordance with public health guidelines. Our store is cleaned and sanitized multiple times every day,” according to Browne.

Ashley Weiser, the great-granddaughter of the Varsity founder Frank Gordy,  did some street side marketing on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
Ashley Weiser, the great-granddaughter of the Varsity founder Frank Gordy, did some street side marketing on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

On Wednesday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a mandate requiring people in the city to wear masks in public to prevent the spread of the virus. As a result of those orders, Browne said that The Varsity would "strongly recommend that our guests wear a mask."

The Varsity also has locations in Kennesaw, Norcross, Dawsonville, Athens and two at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The airport locations are currently closed. The drive-thrus at the remaining locations remain open but those dining rooms are closed.

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