Georgia eases a bit on restaurant rules in latest COVID executive order

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

It will be a little easier beginning Tuesday to serve Georgia diners who stand at the tables of their favorite eateries.

In his latest executive order, Gov. Brian Kemp kept the majority of restrictions on bars and restaurants in the COVID-19 era, including social distancing, but he is making it easier for those who can’t find a place to sit and eat.

“This makes an exception to those establishments that have stand-up tables,” Georgia Restaurant Association CEO and President Karen Bremer said of the executive order, which the governor signed Friday. “But they still must adhere to 6-foot distancing.”

Bars are now held to the same standards as restaurants with the latest state guidelines. The executive order dealing with the state’s coronavirus restrictions runs through the end of the month.

Bremer said Saturday that restaurant inspections have resumed. The inspections had been put off for most of the pandemic as the state Department of Public Health focused on COVID-19 testing and now vaccinations.

The state’s newest guidelines come as restaurants are hoping vaccinations will offer diners more confidence to come back to restaurants after a year of eating at home or ordering out.

The GRA praised President Joe Biden on Thursday after he signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law, which the state group said includes $28.6 billion for the nation’s restaurants in the stimulus money.

“We still have a long way to go, but today is a wonderful day for Georgia’s restaurants,” Bremer said in a release.

In the previous executive order in February, the governor’s office focused on “restaurants and dining services.” But these latest guidelines apply to “restaurants and bars.” Also, the number of measures to be followed fell from 31 to 16 — in part to reduce duplicate restrictions already named in food codes, Bremer said.

Kemp’s executive order also advises establishing entrance and exit pathways for patrons that “are clear and unobstructed.”

Workers are still required to wear face coverings while interacting with patrons.

The executive order includes guidelines for an array of other industries and for continued sheltering in place during the pandemic.