Georgia governor says bars, nightclubs allowed to reopen in June

ST. MARYS, Ga. – Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp extended the state’s public health emergency Thursday, but announced that bars and nightclubs can reopen next week if they choose.

The public health state of emergency is now extended through July 12.

Beginning on Monday, bars and nightclubs can reopen as long as they abide by strict sanitation and social distancing rules. Kemp said they must meet 39 mandatory measures to ensure patron wellbeing. They include:

  • Screening workers for illness
  • Limiting the number of people in the building to 25 people, or 35% of total occupancy
  • Requiring the facility to be thoroughly and regularly sanitized
  • Only serving drinks to seated patrons, or those in designated areas,
  • Limiting party size to six people
  • Preventing patrons from congregating

Live performance venues will remain closed, Kemp said.

Additionally, Kemp said the shelter in place order for Georgians who are 65 and older, or medically fragile, will continue through June 12. The order strongly encourages all Georgians to wear face coverings in public.

Staff at The Bucket in St. Marys are spending the weekend finishing up painting and renovations.

Owners Michael and AnnMarie Ott said their bar has shuttered for ten weeks, costing them $2,000 a month in bills with no revenue coming in.

“If it went much longer, we probably would’ve had to locked the doors,” Michael Ott said. “Because money only lasts so long. You still have all your bills to pay."

But they finally got the green light from the governor, so this weekend the couple is getting creative with seating arrangements at the business. They’re converting the pool table into spaced-out seating and removing bar stools that aren’t six feet apart from another. The retired Navy veterans will also set up their back patio with picnic tables and umbrellas.

Employees and bartenders will all wear a mask, but Otts said customers do not have to. “It’d be very hard to drink a beer with a mask on,” Michael Ott said.

There will also be hand sanitizing stations set up.

The Bucket doesn’t get a lot of tourists — it’s a local-based clientele — so one of the hardest parts has been missing out on their regulars. To Michael and AnnMarie, this place feels like home for them.

“It really does, I mean everybody’s one basically in here," Michael Ott said.

For the past two moths, the only way Ruth Thigpen, an employee at the Whistle Stop Lounge, saw any customers has been through a drive-thru window at the liquor store attached to the bar.

“We don’t have the excitement like we normally do with everybody coming to play pool," Thigpen said.

Steven Ellison, a customer, said he’s looking forward to the lounge reopening.

“They’ve got the coldest beer in town," he said. "I’ll probably stop here after work and get a beer.”

Thigpen said the Whistle Stop Lounge is still figuring out plans to make sure they’re following all of the guidelines, they plan to be open on Monday.

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