Following Gov. Brian Kemp’s recent executive order allowing certain Georgia businesses to begin reopening after several weeks of ordered closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dawson County businesses took the first steps towards resuming normal business operations on Friday.
According to the executive order, tattoo parlors, barbershops and massage therapists were allowed to reopen for business on Friday, with a list of new safety precautions. Theaters and dine-in restaurants will be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27.
Kemp’s executive order was met with mixed reactions from Georgians, and similarly, business owners in Dawson County are split on how to resume their operations while still protecting the safety of staff and customers.
Rob Ingram, owner of Gold City Tattoo in Dawson County, said that his shop reopened in a limited capacity on Friday, but taking every precaution to keep clients safe.
“Our doors will be locked and we won’t be taking walk-ins, only appointments,” Ingram said. “We’re not putting our tables and chairs out, we won’t have any front area outside for anyone to congregate or sit, and we’ll have markings on the floor so if you come and if there’s two appointments at the same time, there will be a marking on the floor where to stand while waiting.”
Clients getting tattoos will be able to have a video or phone consultation before making an appointment, and only the client themselves will be allowed in the shop. In addition to all of these precautions, clients will be asked to wear a mask or face covering the whole time, to use hand sanitizer upon entering the shop, and to allow their temperature to be taken with a thermal scanner before the appointment begins.
“There’s no physical way for us to do what we’re supposed to do without touching somebody,” Ingram said, “but what people may not know is we’re regulated anyways. We use MadaCide, the strongest cleaner that they make … and we have for 13 years. I have a lot more chance of getting something standing in line at the grocery store than in our environment here because of the level of cleaning that we do here.”
Like Gold City Tattoo, Dawson County barbers and massage therapists say they will also be taking every possible precaution to keep their clients safe.
“Sanitation has always been our first priority to keep our valued customers safe,” said Jess Scott, a barber at Old School Barber Shop in Dawsonville. “We fully expect to be busy the first couple days of being open, and we will do our best to get customers in and out with ease and keep them safe.”
Hope Chism, owner of A Touch of Hope Day Spa, told the DCN that her business is planning to protect the safety of clients by reopening only certain services initially and waiting until May to reopen others.
“About 50 to 60% of my business is very health-oriented, so for example, I’m a licensed neuromuscular therapist, so that portion will open on Friday,” Chism said. “Then up until May 1 we’ll be prepping to start seeing more of your traditional type spa, lashes and those types of clients.”
Like Gold City Tattoo, Chisim and her staff hope to limit how many clients come through the business until they have a better idea of what is happening with COVID-19 cases.
“We kind of have phase one and phase two to protect our clients, make it safe for them, and also to keep a little bit more of an eye on what’s going on with the virus,” Chism said.“And that way we can keep the numbers in our shop down and we won’t bring quite as much of our staff back until phase 2.”
The announcement that theaters and dine-in restaurants would be allowed to reopen on Monday has been met with even more mixed reactions, and many local restaurant owners are unsure whether or not they will reopen dine-in services or continue with takeout, delivery and curbside services for the time being.
On Friday, Gordon Pirkle with the Dawsonville Pool Room said that due to the restaurant’s space limitations they have no plans to reopen until the COVID-19 pandemic has been resolved.
Similarly, a representative of Fajita Grill in Dawsonville said that they are still unsure whether they will reopen their dining room and restaurant leadership would be gathering more information to make a decision prior to Monday.
For other small local restaurants such as I Love NY Pizza, the plan is to put off opening dine-in for a long as possible and stick with curbside service for now. This is an effort to protect employees, many of whom are younger and live with their parents or have small children themselves, restaurant manager Jessica Allen told the DCN.
“We were talking about opening, but we decided not to because unfortunately no matter how responsible we are, we can’t control the responsibility of others,” Allen said. “We would like to think that with everything going on everyone’s taking precautions and being careful but we can’t guarantee that - in the end we can only guarantee for ourselves.”
The pizza restaurant is open for curbside service from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and Allen said that they are offering specials and staying engaged on social media as much as possible until the dine-in part eventually reopens.
“Hopefully once everything seems a little safer we’ll open slowly, like possibly even cut the dining room in half and spread out tables and maybe even do it on a reservation basis,” Allen said. “I also plan on offering curbside service from this point out, even after everything goes back to normal.”