SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah city leaders are reacting to the influx of visitors over Memorial Day weekend.
Mayor Van Johnson said the numbers were comparable with St. Patrick’s Day crowds and said he is “extremely concerned” about what he witnessed.
Popular spots like River Street were flooded with visitors over the holiday weekend. Johnson said what he saw was “reckless” behavior, as Savannah Police Department received calls from people who said they felt “unsafe.”
“I rode through streets that were impassable because so many people were standing in the streets, I walked down sidewalks that were impassable because so many people were standing on the sidewalks. They were not social distancing, they were not wearing face coverings,” Johnson stated.
The Savannah Alcohol Beverage Control team visited businesses over the weekend, and issues several citations for facilities that were not complying with the city’s guidelines. Officers issued 66 speeding citations, 18 seat belt violations, and five DUI citations.
In his weekly COVID-19 press conference, Johnson said many people treated the weekend as a “simple vacation weekend.” He said he visited several businesses and parks and said he was disappointed.
“Our city looked and felt like St. Patrick’s Day weekend with packed sidewalks, streets overflowing with young people, most of them not wearing face coverings or observing social distancing,” Johnson said.
The mayor said he is happy that local businesses can open and make money, and said that most are taking proper precautions, but said some are not.
He said he shadowed the Savannah Alcohol Beverage Control team on visits to businesses and was impressed with their professionalism. However, the mayor said the team was not treated with respect by some businesses. In all, six businesses received warnings and two received citations for violating coronavirus-related orders from Governor Brian Kemp this weekend.
The Social Club at 411 W. Congress Street received two citations and B&D Burgers on 209 W. Congress Street received one citation.
The following businesses received a warning:
- Boomys- 409 W. Congress St.
- The Escape Company- 30 Montgomery St.
- Savannah Seafood Shack- 116 E. Broughton St.
- World of Beer- 112 W. Broughton St.
- Molly MacPherson’s Scottish Pub & Grill- 311 W. Congress St.
- PS Tavern- 11 W. Bay St.
Johnson also announced the Savannah Faith initiative, which includes a task force of four local faith leaders dedicated to helping places of worship open safely.
“I commend our faith leaders for making the courageous and bold decisions to remain closed for the foreseeable future,” Johnson said.
The mayor discussed the Savannah Safe initiative further, announcing a new “visitor’s pledge.” The City will now provide tourists with guidelines they are encouraged to follow when visiting to keep themselves and others safe. He said more information on this will be coming soon.
Johnson also reminded the public that Phase 1 of the City’s reopening plan is the focus right now. Phase 1 will begin when Savannah sees a decline in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths for 14 days. The City will move into the next five phases after 14 more days of declining cases.
The mayor once again encouraged Savannahians to get tested for the coronavirus. He also encouraged early voting and the completion of the 2020 census. Johnson said the census is now over 50% complete.