Georgia Restaurant Association says it will follow Kemp’s guidelines, allow restaurants to stay open

ATLANTA — As coronavirus cases continue to surge in Georgia, thousands of restaurant owners are now facing a tough decision that could ultimately decide their fate.

The Georgia Restaurant Association, which represents the state’s 19,000 restaurants and before the pandemic employed half a million people, sided with the governor.

The organization issued a statement Saturday saying it remains supportive of Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order to allow restaurants to reopen, despite Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announcement she was rolling back the City of Atlanta’s reopening plan.

Bottoms stepped the plan backwards from from Phase 2 to Phase 1 Friday, leaving many people confused about which set of guidelines to follow: the Governor’s or the Mayor’s.

Channel 2′s Michael Seiden broke the news of the rollback on Twitter, and Gov. Kemp immediately responded, saying that the mayor’s decision was “legally unenforceable.”

“As clearly state in my executive orders, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide,” Kemp said.

Seiden talked to restaurant owners, who said Bottoms’ announcement cause a lot of confusion and panic.

NIko Karatassos, the President of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, blasted Mayor Bottoms.

“The mayor’s decision to do this is the most destructive decision I can even think about in terms of destroying the livelihood of not just the restaurants themselves, going out of business, but everybody that works at them,” Karatassos said.

Under the mayor’s guidelines, restaurants should close dining rooms and people are advised to only leave their homes for essential trips like the grocery store or pharmacy

“Sales are 50 % of what they used to be if you’re lucky and we’re out of cash,” Karatassos said. “We close now and the business is done, the employees have no job, they’re not paying their rent.”

Kemp's order allowed for restaurants to reopen in-person dining with a hefty set of safety guidelines.

The GRA issued this statement Saturday.

"The inconsistencies of different municipal orders, which may be difficult to enforce, have created much confusion for small businesses that are already struggling to regain dine-in guests and re-employ the thousands of workers displaced during the COVID-19 pandemic," the GRA said.

The organization said the health and safety of guests remains its top priority.

“We are pleased that Georgia restaurants are allowed to reopen and are continuing to follow the recommendations set by the office of the Governor, the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health,” officials said.

Karen Bremer, the CEO of the GRA, said she’s getting lots of phone calls.

“My phone is ringing off the hook, and (I’m getting) texts and emails because people, they’re very, very confused,” Bremer said.