Vice President Mike Pence visits metro Atlanta for restaurant roundtable

ATLANTA — Vice President Mike Pence arrived in metro Atlanta Friday where he dined with Gov. Brian Kemp and took part in a roundtable with restaurant executives impacted by the coronavirus shutdown.

Pence, aboard Air Force Two, landed shortly after 11 a.m. at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta.

From there, Pence had lunch with Gov. Brian Kemp at Star Cafe in northwest Atlanta to talk about how the state’s reopening processes has gone.

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot was the only local television reporter embedded with the vice president. He was able to speak one-on-one about Georgia’s reopening with the vice president for a few minutes after his lunch with the governor.

“The message I got today is that Georgia is doing it. The people of Georgia are stepping up safely and responsibly reopening," Pence said.

Elliot asked the vice president about President Trump’s change of heart after criticizing Kemp and Georgia’s early reopening.

“Georgia is going back to work and President Trump and I are absolutely determined to work with every state in the country to safely and responsibly reopen America again,” Pence said. “We’re going to see the American people through this, but Richard, we’re getting through this and Georgia is leading the way back to putting America back to work.”

Pence, Kemp and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia then met with the Waffle House CEO and local restaurant executives for about an hour. Pence was still beaming about the lunch he had.

“I asked what their specialty was, they said the meatloaf and the pulled pork. I said ‘Sounds good’”, Pence said to a chuckling crowd at the Waffle House headquarters in Norcross.

""We just appreciate the help and the feedback that we’ve gotten from the private sector that helped us write guidelines to safely reopen businesses," Pence said. He said businesses have two duties: “Reopen safely and put people back to work, but we also to keep following the guidelines.”

Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer welcomed the vice president and gave him a gift of ties with a “WH” logo he hoped he’d take back to President Donald Trump.

Ehmer offered sobering news on how Waffle House fared the last two months, saying the company lost 80 percent of their business.

“We simply didn’t have the resources to take care of our own people,” he said. “And that’s a devastating feeling to have.”

Ehmer later said 70 percent of their business is back and they’ve rehired 2,000 people.

Pence told the crowd he’s been a Waffle House regular his whole life and said he’s been inspired by others while leading the White House coronavirus task force.

“Because of what you’ve done, we are now in a position to open up America again. In that respect Georgia is leading the way,” Pence said. “I have to tell you the president and I could not be more proud or more grateful for the clear , courageous, principled leadership of Gov. Brian Kemp.”

Following the roundtable, the Pence motorcade returned to Dobbins ARB to return to Washington, D.C.