The Jolt: Pity the small businesses caught in the pandemic crossfire

April 25, 2020 Decatur -  HOLD FOR MONDAY - Leah Johnson, employee, uses a disinfectant wipe to sanitize tables as restaurant staff prepare to reopen the restaurant at Bad Daddy's Burger Bar in Decatur on Saturday, April 25, 2020. On Monday, Kemp announced shuttered businesses including barbershops, beauty and nail salons, spas, gyms and bowling alleys could reopen Friday. Movie theaters and restaurant dining rooms can reopen Monday. (Hyosub Shin /



April 25, 2020 Decatur - HOLD FOR MONDAY - Leah Johnson, employee, uses a disinfectant wipe to sanitize tables as restaurant staff prepare to reopen the restaurant at Bad Daddy's Burger Bar in Decatur on Saturday, April 25, 2020. On Monday, Kemp announced shuttered businesses including barbershops, beauty and nail salons, spas, gyms and bowling alleys could reopen Friday. Movie theaters and restaurant dining rooms can reopen Monday. (Hyosub Shin /

The market research firm 1Q has released the results of a survey of 600 Georgians conducted on Monday, the same day marked by Gov. Brian Kemp for opening restaurants and movie theaters across the state.

The survey showed two-thirds of Georgia residents disapproved of Kemp's reopening plan and that roughly one in 10 believe all types of reopened businesses are safe to visit.

Respondents were also asked about which specific types of business they considered “unsafe” despite reopening. Gyms, movie theaters and tattoo parlors topped the list, while dine-in restaurants (56%) and hair/nail salons and barbershops (57%) were considered safer by comparison.

We mention it because it meshes well with a New York Times op-ed published this morning. The author is Keren Landman, a physician who specializes in infectious diseases and has also turned journalist. She lives in Georgia. Landman is critical of the way Kemp has gone about trying to reopen the state's economy. That's made clear by the headline: "Georgia Went First. And It Screwed Up."

More interesting is what Landman writes about the dilemma faced by businesses confronting a public divided over how to respond to the pandemic:

On social media and over email, customers and neighbors are threatening to boycott businesses that reopen, regardless of the degree to which they consider customers' safety. People on my own neighborhood website are circulating lists of local businesses that do and do not open as a pandemic purity test of sorts, intended to guide the buying decisions people will make when the pandemic is over.

Somehow, we've reached the point where caring about public health has become a progressive issue, while the nation's economy has become a conservative one. This division is false; no one should have to choose between financial annihilation and helping to spread a deadly disease. But thanks to unforgivable failures of political leadership, business owners in Georgia are bearing the burden of that choice — and the same will happen in every state that follows our lead.

At Resy, a website for the restaurant industry, Hugh Acheson, owner of the Five & Ten in Atlanta, ponders the business case even further. A taste:

The muddled financial reality is that even if we did reopen, how many diners would there be? If I properly space out tables, I lose half my seats. But I don't think that I would do even 10% of a normal night's covers for the next few weeks, maybe months. I am not a scientist, but I do listen to the science, and it tells me that this is not over. 

I am, however, the son of an economist. And with annual sales of $2 million cut in half at best, how does the system expect me to retain my people in the long run? Will my landlords be happy to take less? Will the farmers I buy from be solvent with half-orders? Will I ever host a cocktail party for 40 in the bar area again? Will a group of 12 feel comfortable having a business dinner? I really think that customers will trust us, as long as we show them our plan. But no one is rushing out to have a crowded function for a while. 


Gwinnett County Transit workers agreed not to walk off the job this morning, pointing to additional steps the operating company has taken to protect them from exposure to the coronavirus, according to our AJC colleague David Wickert.


U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., isn't making the same mistake that Vice President Mike Pence did when he toured the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Witness the mask she wore during a Wednesday interview with our Facebook friend Chuck Williams, a WRBL-TV reporter in Columbus:

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Loeffler has been crossing the state, touting her own proposal to encourage the growth of businesses and manufacturing by U.S. companies to produce more goods and products domestically instead of importing from overseas -- using tax incentives and policy changes.

Like many other Republicans, Loeffler is taking particular issue with China trade policies -- as well as its reporting on the coronavirus pandemic that began within its borders.

At the same time, Loeffler is still trying to fend off a TV attack from the Great America PAC, the Trump-aligned group that has endorsed the effort by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., to unseat her.

The ad released Thursday features a female narrator -- the gender is significant -- continuing the criticism the new senator has received for stock market transactions conducted as the coronavirus pandemic worsened.


Meanwhile, Democrats could win one of Georgia's U.S. Senate seats, Sen. David Perdue warned Republican activists earlier this week, according to leaked audio of the call obtained by CNN. The gist from the network's website:

"Here's the reality: The state of Georgia is in play," Perdue said Monday, according to an audio recording of a call with "Women for Trump" obtained by CNN. "The Democrats have made it that way."

…The Georgia senator laid out an apocalyptic view in the eyes of Republicans if Democrats take back the Senate, warning they would seek to make Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico states, try to abolish the Electoral College, add four justices to the Supreme Court and create a "single-party system."

"We have had our wake-up call in Georgia," Perdue said, detailing the state's recent electoral history of increasingly tight races. Perdue said he needs to win "twice the number of votes" than he did in his 2014 campaign to keep his seat due to the influx of new Democrats in Georgia. "The demographic moves against us. But we can still win this if we get out and make sure that all of our voters vote. That's what this comes down to."

Also on the call was Ginger Howard, a Georgia member of the Republican National Committee, who endorsed Perdue’s remarks as "very sobering."

Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators face Democratic challengers this year. U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed in January, is running in a November special election where her biggest challengers include the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

One of three prominent Democrats -- Sarah Riggs Amico, Jon Ossoff and Teresa Tomlinson -- is likely to face off against Perdue in November. And the presence of Libertarian Shane Hazel in the contest offers the possibility that both U.S. Senate races could be pushed into Jan. 5, 2021 runoffs.

Tomlinson had this response to Perdue’s remarks: “A hit dog hollers.”

We should note that Perdue has used similar language many times before. During an August 2019 rally in Rome. he described the 2018 midterm as a "wake-up call" to Republicans too used to soaring victories in Georgia.

But this time, Perdue’s remarks coincide with increased Republican concern in Washington that GOP control of the U.S. Senate could be at risk come November, in addition to the race for the presidency.


One day after the conservative Club for Growth endorsed state Rep. Matt Gurtler's bid for Georgia's 9th District, one of his North Georgia opponents offered a reminder that the organization has spent millions to oppose the current congressman's bid for Senate.

Forsyth County attorney Ethan Underwood knocked the "anti-Trump, anti-Doug Collins" organization and said Gurtler should "wear their endorsement like a badge of shame."

Underwood is among a handful of Republican congressional candidates who have endorsed Collins’ bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.


In endorsement news:

-- GOPAC, a conservative advocacy group that recruits and trains candidates for public office, endorsed U.S. Rep. Doug Collins over Sen. Kelly Loeffler. The group's chair, David Avella, said his experience will bring a "much-needed perspective as President Trump and the U.S. Senate work to assist state governments in getting us past coronavirus."

-- Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has endorsed Teresa Tomlinson’s bid for U.S. Senate against Republican David Perdue.

-- Muscogee County Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Bishop backed Democrat Jon Ossoff over Tomlinson, giving his campaign an influential Columbus supporter in her backyard.


A candidate who launched a primary challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter says the Republican party is trying to sabotage his campaign.

Danny Merritt, who is running in the First Congressional District in southeast Georgia, said party officials have blocked his access to crucial voter data and have made it clear they are only interested in supporting Carter.

“Running a grassroots campaign is hard enough as it is, especially against an incumbent,” Merritt said in a press release. “To have the basic tools that we would need in order to fight a fair fight denied to us just shows a lot about the establishment and the way the RNC treats candidates.”

Merritt is among two GOP challengers that Carter will face in the June 9 primary. Merritt had $6,500 in his campaign account as of March 31. Carter had $1.8 million.

A spokesman for the Republican Party of Georgia did not respond to our emails or a text message about Merritt’s complaint and whether there is a policy of protecting incumbents.

President Trump also tweeted a "total, strong endorsement" of Carter in December.