BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – In a tourist-driven economy, many individuals work in the service and retail industries, leaving employers with difficult choices in light of COVID-19. However, Union County business owners are doing everything they can to protect their employees and customers.
Cabin Coffee Company placed a limit on the number of customers that are allowed in the store at one time – 25 with 10 in the meeting room and 25 in the main dining space. This is about 50 percent of its normal operating capacity. However, owner Stephanie Conner admitted the restaurant can’t prevent people from entering the establishment, so they also encourage call-in and to-go orders.
Around 11 a.m. on March 18, Cabin Coffee had one full table and two other customers dining in.
Parties are limited to eight people. Chairs and tables have been spaced around the rooms to keep people away from each other. Of course, groups who want to eat, drink coffee, or study together, then they aren’t always staying three to six feet away from each other.
The tables in the meeting room only have two to three chairs around it.
Conner also said that employees are trying to wipe down tables as soon as someone leaves, along with constantly cleaning the doorknobs and commonly touched areas. She added that business has slowed down since Monday.
When asked about potential layoffs, Conner didn’t seem concerned affirming all her employees will continue to get a paycheck, even if Gov. Kemp mandates in-room dining areas to close. It’s an order she feels is in Georgia’s future, and she’s not the only one.
Just opening this week, Longhorn’s Steakhouse has seen a steady line of in-house and take-out customers. The restaurant opened on Tuesday, March 17, after the recommendation of 10 people or less gathering from President Trump.
Like Cabin Coffee, the restaurant has removed all self-dispensing condiments from tables and are seating guests a table away from each other. Also, groups no larger than eight are allowed in at a time.
Customers can pick-up meals from their cars and never enter the building as long as they call ahead. The establishment intends to keep the dining room open until instructed by the government to close.
Once that happens, management admits that layoffs will have to happen and is offering aid to help its employees. Employees who can’t find food in the grocery store, or can’t afford it, will have the option of purchasing food from Longhorn’s inventory to feed their families.
Longhorn was busy at lunch on March 18, but people were sitting a table apart when possible.
Longhorn’s also informing employees of services like the Georgia non-profit The Giving Kitchen dedicated to assisting service industry workers who can no longer work.
In the retail sector, businesses have adjusted how customers receive goods by offering curbside service. They can call in an order, or buy it online, and pick the item up outside. Other businesses decided to close, like Sugar Magnolia Gifts and Interiors and Castoff Pet Rescue Thrift Store.
Gov. Kemp, on March 18, announced that small businesses in Georgia would see some relief through the statewide disaster declaration from U.S. Small Business Administration.
In an online update on March 19, the Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rowe declared, “The county is still open for business…All of our restaurants are practicing social distancing and taking extra sanitation precautions. If you can, get out and order, takeout with our local restaurants. If you want to, go and sit down if you think it is safe. If you’re looking for something to do with your kids, don’t forget that Vogel State Park is open, Meeks Park is open if you want to go on a hike out there. Also, our waterfalls, of course, are always open. Take a good hike, and don’t forget about our golf courses, a good way to get out. We want to thank everybody and our merchants for their hard work, and Blairsville is open for business.”
Businesses like Verizon Wireless will remain open because it’s deemed an essential service. The electronic company serves not only the public’s communications needs but governments as well.
The corporate office also confirmed that “Verizon waives late fees for residential and small business customers impacted by COVID-19, offers free international calling to CDC level 3 countries.”