Georgia mayor wants governor to change bar, gathering regulations due to COVID-19

The mayor of Athens-Clarke County wants Governor Kemp to make changes to the current coronavirus executive order by changing the way bars conduct business and considering a limit on the number of people allowed to gather in areas with high coronavirus case counts.

For months, Georgia restaurants have tried to slow COVID-19’s hold on business.

Some have adjusted to exclusively serving carry out orders, others keep patrons 6 feet apart and mandate masks when walking throughout the establishment.

Mayor Girtz wants bars to operate similarly.

"...someone has to be at a table and served at a table, so you don’t have people... in each other’s faces," he said.

That’s one of two proposals Mayor Girtz penned to Governor Brian Kemp in a letter this week.

The other would limit the number of people allowed to gather in areas with high coronavirus case counts.

"It's not uncommon here in Athens to see 20, 30, 40, 45 people gathered at a house. Unfortunately, the reality is it’s not safe right now, but it is absolutely legal under the governor’s order. We just want to see that house party limit down to 10," Girtz said.

Mayor Girtz said he’s aware students at nearby UGA want to experience college life but he said the current regulations are too loose for his jurisdiction.

"Think about the last party they were at with 50 people. Do you know who was there? Probably not. With 10 people, you know who was there. So, when it comes to contact tracing, and it comes to follow up and testing, a 10-person gathering can be pursued. A 50-person gathering, not so much," he said.

As of right now, the governor has yet to take any action adjusting the current executive order, but Girtz said he has heard from Kemp’s office.

"They’re considering a supplemental memo regarding that bar dynamic," he said. "That would be supportive of bar communities… in a way they keep students and everybody they come into contact with safe," he said.

Girtz said these measures could make a huge difference as temperatures drop, flu season peaks, and businesses reassess their summer set ups.

"We’re not going to come out of this strong if businesses are shuttered. This doesn’t have to be a case of choosing health or choosing livelihood. We can do both in order for us to be strong or safe," Mayor Girtz said.