ST. MARYS, Ga. – Movies theaters are allowed to reopen and limited in-restaurant dining can resume on Monday under Gov. Brian Kemp’s order to restart some Georgia businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But despite the governor’s order, which was announced last Monday, some theaters say it’s nearly impossible to reopen in a week, as they have to make sure the cinemas are safe for both employees and customers.
Georgia Theatre Company owns 22 theaters in the Peach State, including four in Southeast Georgia area: Glynn Place, Kings Bay, Island and Mall Cinemas. In a statement to News4Jax, Bo Chambliss, the president of GTC, said the first major new movie release, “Tenant," is scheduled for July 17, and his theaters will reopen a few weeks before that.
“Although the Governor will allow us to open our theatres in Georgia on Monday, we will not be opening for several weeks. We want to make sure we are providing a safe and comfortable environment for our employees and our customers. We are putting systems in place and ordering supplies that we will need to achieve the level of safety our employees and customers will expect. The first major new release, Tenant, directed by Christopher Nolan, is scheduled to be released on July 17. We will open a few weeks before then with repertory films to build some momentum ahead of Tenant. We believe there is a lot of pint-up demand for movie-going and expect people want to get out of their houses to see a movie as soon as they can. Business will be back to usual before we know it,” the statement reads.
Some Georgians told News4Jax on Sunday they still won’t go to restaurants or movie theaters for a while.
“I don’t think it’s good for them to open the state back up to the public yet," said Michael Wilson, who lives in St. Marys. “I don’t think we’re gonna be over it no time soon. I think we’re gonna be out for a while till they find a cure for it.”
The three major U.S. movie theater chains -- AMC, Regal and Cinemark -- remain closed until further notice and have furloughed tens of thousands of workers.
Starting this weekend, Georgia business owners who chose to reopen after Kemp relaxed coronavirus-related restrictions gratefully welcomed back customers, while others remained satisfied in their decision to stay closed.
Gyms, tattoo shops, nail salons and barbershops were among the businesses that were allowed to open Friday after Kemp relaxed a monthlong shutdown.
Some restaurant owners are torn, like the owners of Las Delicias in St. Mary’s.
Las Delicias brings the flavors of South America to St. Mary’s.
“We are you know like Hispanic from South America food," said owner Lorena Alvarez.
Alvarez and her husband have worked in the industry for years and decided to fulfill a lifelong pursuit and used all their savings to open their own restaurant last year.
“It’s not only a business, it’s a dream,” Alvarez said. “It’s not a corporation, you know, it’s a family business so right now we need a lot of help.”
Alvarez says the restaurant lost more than 60% of its income in sales when the pandemic first shuttered businesses and they had to close for a few weeks to regroup.
They since reopened to drive-thru and curbside only and plan to keep that system in place for a least another week or two.
“We don’t want to risk our employees, we don’t wanna risk our customers, you know, customers are our priority," Alvarez said.
Restaurants that do reopen Monday must screen employees for signs of illness, require staff members to wear face masks at all times and limit capacity to no more than 10 people per 500 square feet of floor space.
Nearby St. Mary’s Seafood said it is ready to go.
All the businesses have to adhere to restrictions, including separating workers and enhanced sanitation.