Some restaurants play it slow despite no restrictions on Thursday

Beginning Thursday, many of Georgia's COVID-19 restrictions will no longer be in place. Gov. Brian Kemp made the announcement last week by signing three new executive orders.

One of those orders allows restaurants and bars at full capacity.

FOX 5 talked to restauranteurs on Wednesday about the restrictions being lifted.

Randy Parks explained what it was like operating Folk Art after the state lockdown last year.

"We reopened and were doing just takeout, and then we slowly introduced customers back, mainly outside first," said Parks.

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Parks told FOX 5 he wasn't surprised when Gov. Kemp announced he would begin loosening many of the COVID-19 restrictions that had been in place since the start of the pandemic.

"I knew it was going to start coming because other states were opening up, and Kemp is eager to get Georgia opened up," said Parks, "I feel like it's a little early, but with the vaccinations coming out, I feel like it's safer to open up."

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Gov. Kemp signed three executive orders relating to COVID-19 last week. One of them allows restaurants, bars, fitness centers and movie theatres to operate at full capacity with few distance guidelines.

"We're going to stay the way we're operating. It's working. We're able to pay the bills and keep everybody paid, so I don't see a reason for us to rush into it," said Parks.

The order also ends bans on large gatherings and eliminates the shelter-in-place guidelines. Pietro Gianni is a part-owner of three Atlanta restaurants. He told FOX 5, he doesn't plan to make any major adjustments because of the new order.

"We're not going to go chair-to-chair," said Gianni, "I don't think it's fair to make a restaurant overcrowded for those that don't want to be vaccinated or people that are just uncomfortable with the whole situation."

Dr. Colin Smith is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Public Health of Georgia State University. He said there is some concern that it could be too early to loosen the COVID-19 restrictions. He also said restaurant owners should use their best judgment when it comes to opening at full capacity while keeping in mind advice from health experts.

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"We're kind of in a race right now to get as many people vaccinated as possible and get a minimum level of protection for the entire population before these new variant strands become common," said Smith.

Kemp's two other orders allow state employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 without taking sick days. The Governor also extended the Public Health State of Emergency until April 30.

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