Atlanta restaurants face backlash over COVID-19 safety concerns

The exterior of Pour Taproom on the Eastside Beltline. / Pour Taproom Facebook page
The exterior of Pour Taproom on the Eastside Beltline. / Pour Taproom Facebook page

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a statement shared with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Pour Taproom owner Ramon Ballester.

Two metro Atlanta restaurants received backlash over the past few days for their COVID-19 safety protocol.

Several photos circulated on social media over the weekend of unmasked, non-distanced crowds on the patio at Pour Taproom on the Eastside Beltline, Eater Atlanta first reported.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s most recent executive order states that there should be at least six feet of space between tables at restaurants and bars, and that patrons should not congregate.

The owner of neighboring business Bennett’s Market said the weekend crowds have negatively impacted her business.

“Yes, my business is on that strip and WE are covid compliant but people cannot get to us because they are UNWILLING to walk through the crowds and expose themselves,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “We have customers in wheelchairs who live nearby and cannot get to us. They depend on us for milk, eggs, etc. Our sales are struggling ..mostly because people don’t want to walk through the crowds.”

Ramon Ballester, who owns Pour along with Jon Kim, issued an apology via Instagram and said the bar would be closed until further notice to “work on training, capacity management and our internal processes.”

He also shared a statement with the Atlanta-Journal Constitution:

We closed our doors effective Sunday, morning, January 24th, and will remain closed until we have sufficiently addressed each of the 34 points in Governor Kemp’s updated Executive Order dated January 15th, 2021 for restaurants. Additionally, expect to see a clear demarcation on our patio specifying through traffic, coordination with property management and fellow tenants for off-duty APD presence during peak operations on Saturday’s while under Covid protocol, and additional staff to process customer transactions.

Each of the fellow neighboring retail tenants have had my personal contact information since opening in April 2019. They have been, and continue to be, welcome to reach out to me directly for constructive feedback on my operations and the effects on their own.

We hope to be back as quickly as possible to serve our valued customers while re-focusing our efforts to be mindful members of the neighborhood.

Cheers!

Ray B,

Owner/Operator

In the meantime, Sandy Springs restaurant Mojave caused a stir with its policy to not require patrons to wear masks, CBS46 reported.

A sign on the restaurant’s door reads, “This location does not require the use of masks or facial coverings upon this property.”

Sandy Springs mayor Rusty Paul issued a directive in August requiring masks in public places, but allowing businesses to make their own decisions regarding masks as long as they post their policy prominently.

Mojave owner Miguel Ayoub issued a statement on the restaurant’s Facebook page regarding the mask policy, noting that staff is required to wear masks, while customers have the option to do so.

Ayoub did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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