FLOWERY BRANCH – Flowery Branch has joined the growing list of jurisdictions taking action under an emergency declaration to close in-house dining areas while relaxing deadlines for payment of utility bills.
City leaders had hoped to take such actions last week but technical problems forced the postponement of an online city council meeting on Thursday.
Under the declaration passed unanimously Tuesday evening during a special-called online meeting:
Restaurants within city limits are closed to in-house dining
Restaurants within city limits with a valid license may sell beer and wine as a take-out or delivery item
The annual Occupation Tax (city business license renewal) deadline is extended to September 30
No penalties or interest will be applied to late utility payments
No utility customer will have service suspended during life of the declaration
The declaration is for thirty days and can be extended or shortened by the city council as deemed necessary.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has been allowing local governments to determine for themselves what actions are necessary in their communities, but the time had arrived for Flowery Branch to synchronize their actions with neighboring jurisdictions.
Mayor Mike Miller said last night, “The consensus of everyone (on the city council) was that we wanted to proceed with the actual prohibiting of in-dining, and that is going along with what Gainesville passed at their meeting yesterday, I believe Hall County was going to pass it today if they have not already done so, and I spoke with the mayor of Oakwood earlier today and he…was going to speak to his council about getting something passed.”
“Just so everybody in our community is on the same page…all doing the same thing,” Miller explained.
Miller said that because where one jurisdiction ends – Flowery Branch, Oakwood, Gainesville and unincorporated Hall County - and another begins can be confusing, “It doesn’t make sense for one or two of us to do it if the rest of us aren’t in it.”
As to the decision to move back the deadline for renewing city business licenses, Miller said, “We understand the stress that’s being put on the local businesses and the small business owners, and July 1 (normal deadline to renew licenses) at this point seems like it’s a long way down the road, but for a business that probably the last two weeks hasn’t brought in a whole lot of money, that business license fee probably is pretty significant.”
“We wanted to give them another month or two to get back on their feet before they are having to pay to renew those licenses.”
Flowery Branch resident Harvey Glass says he opposes the stoppage of in-house dining; he is the area supervisor for restaurant chain J. Christopher’s. He said of the company’s Spout Springs Road location, “We’ve been open at Flowery Branch; we’ve been seating no more than ten guests at a time. All the tables are stripped of everything. We’ve gone above and beyond whatever the call has been as far as sanitation.”
Glass continued his reasoning, “The grocery stores have more than ten people and people are a lot closer. What the damage does, as far as the employees…we’ve already laid off half our employees and after this (Emergency Declaration) tonight the other half will be laid off.”
Miller responded to Glass, “I want to reiterate…we’re not shutting them (restaurants) down, we’re just not allowing that in-house dining; we’re still allowing the take-out option for drive through and for our businesses that do sell alcohol we’re allowing them to still sell that with those take-out orders.”
Glass said, “I understand the big picture…but if you’re doing one-tenth of what you used to do, or one-twentieth, it’s a smart business decision to close the restaurant rather versus losing money.”