Restaurants see easing restrictions as great news, while others worry it’s too soon

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Georgia restaurants are no longer under COVID-19 restrictions after Gov. Brian Kemp lifted those restrictions this weekend.

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot went to Williamson Brothers Barbeque, which is welcoming back guests at full capacity, on Monday.

Sawyer Williamson, the son of one of the Williamson brothers, tended the barbecue pit, where racks of ribs slow-cooked over a hot, smoky fire.

Sawyer Williamson told Elliot that a year ago, he truly wondered if they would make it.

“I equate it to running 10 marathons to get the results of one,” Williamson said.

The popular restaurant had to get creative to survive the pandemic, to the point that takeout made up 70% of their sales.


But now, Kemp has lifted all restrictions on restaurants, meaning no more required social distancing and staff doesn’t have to wear masks -- though for now, they’re still doing that at Williamson Brothers.

Critics worry it’s still too soon, and that not enough people have been vaccinated to warrant a full reopening.

Kemp told Elliot that he wants people to get vaccinated too, but also said it’s time to get the economy moving again.

“We’ve got to reopen our economy. We’ve got parts of our sector that are hit very hard, in hospitality, tourism, our service industry, restaurants, small business people,” Kemp said.

Williamson Brothers’ director of operations Michelle Jehlen said she finally sees a light at the end of the barbecue pit.

“We are excited to get somewhat normal. We’re still encouraging our staff, especially restaurant staff where they’re eating to wear masks, to get vaccinated, but we’re happy that we still full capacity, for sure,” Jehlen said.

Joyce Leonard stopped by the restaurant Monday to eat some barbecue.

“I think it’s great. I think it’s good for the economy. I think it’s good for us to get back to doing normal things,” Leonard said.

Restaurant owners have applauded the governor’s move although critics point out that Georgia still lags behind the rest of the nation in percentage of people getting the vaccine.