SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The coronavirus pandemic is affecting businesses in Savannah, forcing them to decide to stay open or to close their doors.
Major retailers, like Belk at Oglethorpe Mall are closing until March 30, saying it’s based on CDC guidelines to limit large gatherings. In downtown Savannah, some offices and a handful of restaurants have temporarily closed as well.
Others, like Leopold’s Ice Cream, say they’re staying open and following new guidelines suggested by state and local government leaders.
“We’ve decreased our tables and chairs inside,” owner Stratton Leopold said. “They are very far apart now, eight or nine feet apart for the most part.”
The Olde Pink House downtown is doing the same, decreasing seating by two-thirds.
“Our busines has the capability of serving, you know, a pretty good number of people, but [by] being responsible and acknowledging social spacing, we’re serving significantly less people,” general manager Craig Jeffress said.
Many restaurants have decided to transition into take out only.
“Around the country, it’s not been cities that have ordered restaurants to go to take out and delivery, it’s governors,” Director of Communications for the City of Savannah Nick Zoller said. “Our governor has not ordered that at this point, so what the city’s doing is encouraging our local restaurants to meet CDC guidelines, which are social distancing at least six feet apart and cleanliness.”
Big businesses like Belk are paying its staff for scheduled hours during the closing, but several local restaurants say they need to help staff by staying open.
Governor Kemp announced Wednesday that Georgia has received an official statewide disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help local businesses during the outbreak. Small business owners can learn more and apply here.
“We’re taking it day by day,” Leopold said.
Businesses News 3 spoke to agreed that they will continue to follow all government directives on sanitation and will close if told to do so.