Georgia Restaurants Take a Stand
The state of Georgia has been in the news a lot in recent weeks.
First there was the devastating Covid-19 hot spot in Albany where the hospital was so overrun with patients nurses were told to keep working with positive test results, then the poultry packing plant that foreshadowed the outbreak at meatpacking facilities across the country, and most recently Georgia governor Brian Kemp’s decision to open the state back up on April 27, 2020 despite cases and deaths climbing without pause and public health officials’ dire warnings.
On Tuesday April 28, 2020, fifty Georgia restauranteurs took a stand against his reckless action. United under the hashtag #GAHospitality the group decided not to re-open their 129 restaurants for dine in service and took out a full page advertisement in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to announce their decision (NVA #3: Declarations by organizations and institutions, NVA #4: Signed public statements, and NVA #10: Newspapers and journals). Their fundamental point was: "We agree that it's in the best interest of our employees, our guest, our community, and our industry to keep our dining room closed at this time.” (NVA #60: Suspension of social and sports activities, NVA #65: Stay-at-home, and a modified form of NVA #83: Lockout in which they are locking out customers, as well as furloughed employees.)
While the advertisement is a public statement to all AJC readers, it was particularly targeted at the governor (NVA #31: “Haunting” officials) with the restauranteurs hoping to get their concerns about endangering the health of their employees, their customers, and the larger community in front of him. Restaurants across the country, including those owned by the group pushing back against Kemp's orders, have been devastated by coronavirus shutdowns. In April, employment in leisure and hospitality plummeted by 7.7 million, or 47 percent. Almost three-quarters of the decrease occurred in food services and drinking places (-5.5 million). Despite their employees making up one a quarter of the overall newly unemployed restaurants only received nine percent of the Paycheck Protection bailout money.
These #GAHospitality owners know intimately the economic damage the closures wrought on their businesses and their employees. Every day they stay closed is another day of rent and utility costs, another day without income, another day they are unable to pay valued employees currently on furlough, another day they can not move forward with their lives.
But reopening comes with a steep human cost. One that leans on the most desperate among us, primarily exposing the people who can least afford to protect their own health to exposure. Hugh Acheson, one of the advertisement’s signatories, owns three restaurants in Atlanta. On April 24, he penned a rip-roaring op-ed in the Washington-Post (NVA #121: Refusal of public support, NVA #122: Literature and speeches advocating resistance, and calling for NVA #135: Popular non-obedience), where he outlined his 95% loss in revenue, his reliance on the goodness of philanthropists and NGOs to keep a skeleton crew on to make meals for essential workers. In it he also pointed out:
“The virus remains strong in Georgia. Dougherty County is still in turmoil, with one of the worst per capita infection rates in the country. Habersham County in the north is a new hot spot, doubling its cases at an alarming rate. Statewide testing for the virus is still meager. Yet my industry is being asked to open our doors to the unknown, without new health department guidelines, without safe standard practices, and without sound scientific evidence that we are ready to resume any sense of normalcy. I am confident that my restaurants will create a system of distanced hospitality with clear sanitation guidelines that can be viable in the next month, but to open so soon seems dreadfully irresponsible to my employees, my customers and my own family.” He and his peers are asking government officials, and all of us, to follow the science, to follow the direction of public health specialists, to take care of ourselves, and to also to take care of each other and our communities.
When we get through this pandemic, and we can reopen businesses and schools, and all those places we used to think were essential, without endangering the most vulnerable among us, we will have choices about where we go and who we support. We will have choices about how we spend our money (NVA #189: Selective patronage). Let’s choose to support those who take action to protect us, to protect our communities. Nonviolent actions employed: 3. Declarations by organizations and institutions 4. Signed public statements 10. Newspapers and journals 31. “Haunting” officials 60. Suspension of social and sports activities 65. Stay-at-home 83. Lockout? 121. Refusal of public support 122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance 135. Popular non-obedience 189. Selective patronage
#TheMethodsofNonviolentProtestandPersuasion #FormalStatements #NVA3 #NVA3DeclarationsByOrganizationsandInstitutions #NVA4 #NVA4SignedPublicStatements #CommunicationswithaWiderAudience #NVA10 #NVA10NewspapersandJournals #PressuresonIndividuals #NVA31 #NVA31HauntingOfficials #TheMethodsofSocialNoncooperation #NoncooperationwithSocialEventsCustomsandInstitutions #NVA60 #NVA60SuspensionofSocialandSportsActivities #WithdrawalfromtheSocialSystem #NVA65 #NVA65StayatHome #ActionbyOwnersandManagement #NVA83 #NVA83Lockout #TheMethodsofPoliticalNoncooperation #RejectionofAuthority #NVA121 #NVA121RefusalofPublicSupport #NVA122 #NVA122LiteratureandSpeechesAdvocatingResistance #CitizensAlternativestoObedience #NVA135 #NVA135PopularNonobedience #TheMethodsofNonviolentIntervention #EconomicIntervention #NVA189 #NVA189SelectivePatronage