By KATE BRUMBACK
ATLANTA – Georgia business owners who chose to reopen after the governor relaxed coronavirus-related restrictions gratefully welcomed back customers, while others remained satisfied in their decision to stay closed.
Russ Anderson, who owns four Ink Addiction Tattoo Studio shops in south Georgia, said Saturday that he was thrilled to finally reopen his doors a day earlier.
“I felt like a little kid at Disney World,” he said.
Gyms, tattoo shops, nail salons and barber shops were among the businesses that were allowed to open Friday after Gov. Brian Kemp relaxed a monthlong shutdown in spite of warnings from health experts and disapproval from President Donald Trump.
Another round of reopenings is set for Monday, when limited in-restaurant dining can resume and movie theaters may reopen. All the businesses have to adhere to restrictions including separating workers and enhanced sanitation.
Several barber shops, salons and nail parlors opened in Statesboro with plenty of customers on Friday. It was unknown if any of the local tattoo businesses opened, but none answered their business phones at their shops.
People were already outside Anderson's main shop in Valdosta when it opened Friday, and a steady stream of customers arrived all day for a total of 50 or 60, he said. The virus outbreak forced a closure at a bad time for his shops – tax return season is generally busy.
“Yesterday was a great day. We had a good turnout,” he said. “What we had yesterday was equivalent to a good day in tax return season.”
Sanitizing and disinfecting is always a big part of running a tattoo and piercing business, so the extra safety measures aren’t too much of a burden, he said.
There are nine tattoo artists at his main shop and some of them also do piercings. They were all ready to come back to work right away, he said, though one said he wasn’t comfortable doing oral piercings right now.
Georgia has ranked in the bottom nationally in per capita testing, a key component in preventing a resurgence of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and critics say Kemp’s order to restart some businesses was premature despite a bump in screenings this week.
The state had recorded more than 23,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 912 deaths by Sunday morning, according to the state health department.
For most people, the coronavirus behind the pandemic causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause severe illness such as pneumonia, or even death.
Shawn Gingrich, CEO and founder of Lion’s Den Fitness, said he decided very soon after the governor’s Monday announcement that he would not be reopening his gym in midtown Atlanta right away. As he listened to the news on the radio Friday about businesses that were reopening, he felt discouraged.
“We’ve sacrificed so much already,” he said Saturday. “I feel like if we do this too soon, we’ll see a spike in cases and we’re back to square one.”
Being closed for six weeks already has meant a 95% drop in revenue, but he still has fixed costs like rent, utilities and insurance that need to be paid. He applied for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program but hadn’t gotten much feedback until he checked his bank account Saturday morning and saw that the money had arrived.
That will allow him to ensure that his team is paid for the next eight weeks and to cover some other expenses.“It feels like a 500-pound boulder was removed from my shoulders,” he said.