Over 120 Atlanta restaurants say they are refusing to open their dining rooms even though Georgia is allowing them to do so

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  • Some Georgia restaurants are pushing back against the state’s loosened restrictions, saying it’s still not safe to reopen.
  • 120 Atlanta-area restaurants joined forced to form the “#GAHospitalityTogether” initiative and released a statement committing to not reopening their dining rooms until it’s safe to do so.
  • “We agree that it’s in the best interests of our employees, our guests, our community and our industry to keep our dining rooms closed at this time,” the statement reads.
  • Still, some chain restaurants have already reopened their dining rooms this week.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Georgia allowed restaurants to reopen dining rooms on Monday, but some restaurants are pushing back against the idea that it’s safe to do so.

Over 120 Atlanta-area restaurants banded together to form the “#GAHospitalityTogether” initiative, committing to staying closed until they feel it’s safe to reopen, despite state law allowing them to reopen now. Chefs and restaurateurs led by Fred Castellucci, CEO of Castellucci Hospitality Group, released a statement in an ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Among the members of the initiative are award-winning chefs Ford Fry, Anne Quatrano, Hugh Acheson, and Mashama Bailey.

“We agree that it’s in the best interests of our employees, our guests, our community and our industry to keep our dining rooms closed at this time,” the statement reads. “Recognizing that each operator faces incredibly difficult decisions on the path ahead, we affirm the fact that public safety is the top priority as we navigate this challenge. These uncommon times call for uncommon leadership. We stand united in our resolve to emerge stronger, safer and more steadfast than before.”

The decision to remain closed was difficult, Castelluci told Business Insider in an email, but was made based on data received from public health officials.

“It’s what we feel is best for the safety and health of our restaurants, our teams and our customers right now, and as we see cases drop to a low enough number, we’ll reevaluate the risk factors and begin to implement our reopening plans,” Castelluci said.

Fry, whose restaurant empire has earned critical acclaim, told Business Insider in an email that Atlanta chefs have been “paying close attention” to the city’s climate and didn’t feel it was the right time to reopen. “We, of course, want to get our team back to work and providing for their families,” Fry said. “But we feel as a community that it’s best for the safety of our guests and our teams if we keep our dining rooms closed at this time as we work to create robust and thoughtful reopening plans that incorporate strict health guidelines from public officials.”

Bo Peabody, the cofounder of reservations app Seated and a restaurant owner, helped write the state’s new health and safety guidelines for reopening restaurants. Although Peabody isn’t a member of the initiative, Peabody told Business Insider that he doesn’t plan to reopen his own restaurant anytime soon either. “The vast majority of restaurants cannot open profitably with these guidelines in place. That’s not to say they won’t or shouldn’t. And it’s also not to say that they’re going to follow the guidelines.”

Georgia’s new guidelines require restaurants to operate at 50% capacity. However, Peabody said, most restaurants only turn a profit if they are full during peak business days.

Still, some Georgia restaurants reopened their dining rooms this week.

BBQ chain Smokey Bones reopened its three Georgia locations on Wednesday. Among the changes the chain made was roping off every other booth, spacing out tables, switching to disposable menus, and requiring staff to wear masks and gloves at all times. Smokey Bones CEO James O’Reilly told Business Insider in an interview that he’s confident he can strike the balance needed to meet customer demand.

“The general sentiment and in our population of restaurants of managers and employees is that they are excited to return to work and they look forward to the reopening of the restaurant,” O’Reilly said. “I am expecting a slow ramp up as guests feel more comfortable to come back in to our dining rooms as we are allowed to reopen them. That’s totally understandable and we will be ready and adjust as the business environment changes.”

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