Brookhaven to allow restaurants to use tents, parking lots for seating

Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst has signed a new executive order allowing local restaurants to set up tents and use parking lots as seating areas, a move he believes will allow them to better maintain social distancing during the ongoing pandemic.

Ernst characterized the move as "making the best of a bad situation" — a not-so-veiled jab at Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to allow restaurants to resume on-site dining Monday.

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Many local leaders (and restaurant owners) have criticized Kemp’s directives as too much too soon.

“For the next 90 days, Brookhaven will embrace alfresco dining,” Ernst said in a news release. “With this executive order, restaurants have a unique strategy they can utilize to reopen, yet do so responsibly.”

By law, local leaders cannot enact any coronavirus-related restrictions more or less stringent than those imposed by the governor. But that does not prevent them from making recommendations or, in Ernst’s view, offering local eateries that opportunity to apply for “temporary outdoor restaurant operations permits.”

The 90-day permits would allow them to use tents and parking lots where it might otherwise be prohibited by city code.

Restaurants are not required to participate.

“Brookhaven was the first city to declare a state of emergency to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Ernst said. “Now that the state of Georgia has enacted a statewide mandate to reopen businesses, this clarifying language and executive order gives restaurateurs solutions as we collectively fight to contain the coronavirus.”