The City of Helen today issued a notice ordering restaurants in the town to close down their dining areas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city based its directive on a statewide executive order by Gov. Brian Kemp and guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).
“Take out, drive-thru, delivery, or third-party delivery options should be the only means by which consumers can obtain food,” the notice from the City of Helen states.
Following DPH guidelines, the city also instructed restaurant owners to encourage customers to wash or sanitize their hands, provide clearly marked waiting areas where customers can remain at least six feet apart, and limit the number of customers inside their establishments to no more than 10 at a time.
Helen city officials say they decided to close in-restaurant dining “in order to protect members of the public.” The Georgia Department of Public Health is recommending all restaurants close their dining areas calling it “an imminent health hazard.”
The DPH division of Environmental Health issues the following statement regarding DPH restaurant guidelines: “Voluntary compliance is sought in all cases, but individual cities and counties have provided citation power to code enforcement, sheriff’s departments and/or public health departments. At this time we are not actively seeking enforcement through citations. Should the situation arise requiring enforcement, citations as well as permit suspension are options for compliance.”
Helen is a popular tourist destination in the Northeast Georgia mountains. There’s been an influx of visitors to the town since the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this month. Today’s action by the city and recent actions by Gov. Kemp likely will curb that. Kemp’s executive order shut down nightclubs and bars and limits public gatherings.
Under the directive, in-restaurant dining in Helen will be closed until further notice.