Decatur restaurants say no to on-premises dining, at least for now

Heading into the weekend, no Decatur restaurant has confirmed they’re opening Monday April 27 for on-premises dining.

On April 20 Gov. Brian Kemp issued an order stating that restaurants and movie theaters could reopen statewide on Monday. The order makes clear that no local government could enact an order contradictory to the governor’s or reissue any previous emergency orders (Decatur issued three in March).

Decatur’s Downtown Program Manager Shirley Baylis reached out to the city’s roughly 80 restaurants asking for their immediate plans, and 21 stated definitively they aren’t reopening for in-house dining anytime soon. Many others have posted their intentions on social media, but none have said when they’ll let customers eat inside again.

Baylis said that Tom Hart, owner of the city’s Mellow Mushroom, had flirted with a tentative date for re-opening on-premises dining, but in an email to the AJC Thursday Hart declined to give a date.

“Thus far we have no idea what the governor’s expectations are or how we would address them,” said Hart, whose restaurant does provide takeout and delivery.

According to the city’s Open For Business website, there are now 52 restaurants, or about 65 percent, open for some combination of delivery, takeout and/or curbside service, a number that is consistently rising.

In a statement to the AJC Thursday, Meherwan Irani, chef-owner for Chai Pani, expressed sentiments similar to many for why he has no immediate plans for reopening either dining room or takeout service.

“Regardless of ‘official’ timelines,” Irani said, “we are waiting for feedback from the medical community, our staff, and our own community to decide when to go back to sit-down service in order to do it in a way that honors our guests’ trust in us.

“I know small business owners are hurting and desperate—we are too,” he added. “But if we lose the public’s trust and confidence right now, because we reopened even though it wasn’t safe, we’ll risk losing that trust for a long time to come.”

In a statement given to the AJC Thursday night City Manager Andrea Arnold said, “It is beyond the city’s control, but we appreciate [all the restaurants’] decision. [Not opening] is going to have a positive impact on the community health. So ultimately the city as a whole benefits.”

Meantime, despite the governor’s orders, the city’s government facilities like City Hall, the Decatur Recreation Center, Ebster Recreation and the Public Works building, among others, remain closed to the public.