Last Friday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that the Safer at Home order issued late last month would be amended to allow the further reopening of businesses.
While under heavy restrictions, businesses such as barber shops, restaurants and salons have been given the green light to begin seating and serving customers once again.
For businesses in downtown Auburn, this amendment will provide much-needed customers after many have been in survival mode.
Greg Bradshaw, owner of Mellow Mushroom and Tacorita, had high praises for his team in handling the transition to curbside and delivery, but looks forward to seeing customers in his shop once again.
“Everything has a beginning, middle, and end. Maybe we are at the beginning of the end,” he said.
While Bradshaw is optimistic, he has been cautious about how on-premise dining will reopen, opting to wait a week in order to prepare his staff.
“We thought we needed a week to get ready for this, to get training, get rest, and then on Monday it will be the new normal,” he said.
Many other downtown restaurants will also reopen for on-premise dining over the coming weeks, as they get food orders delivered, coolers restocked and devise strategies to safely serve food to customers while abiding by the Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines included with the order. The guidelines for on-premise dining include limiting party size at tables to no more than eight people and maintaining "six feet of separation between people seated at different tables, booths, chairs or stools." Employees are also required to wear masks or other facial coverings while interacting with patrons. Drink stations, buffets and salad bars are prohibited.
Another longtime downtown business owner is Donna Young, who has owned Behind the Glass for over 30 years. For Young, the biggest impact on her store has been its six-week closure. Through an online presence and careful management of funds, Young was able to keep her store afloat.
Because Behind the Glass is retail, it had the benefit of being open to the public since late April. This has allowed for Young and her team to implement several procedures, such as wearing masks, physical distancing of six feet, and optimized store hours.
As restrictions for more businesses are lifted, Young looks forward to the return of people to the downtown area.
“People are really happy to get out and have fun after being cooped up for so long,” she said.
However, Young cautions that just because regulations are lifting, it does not mean businesses can revert back to old habits. For Young, this “new normal” is likely to be around for quite some time.
“We are keeping them (restrictions) for the foreseeable future because no one knows what is going to be happening," she said. "We want to be sure that we don’t have a second rise in cases and we want to be able to mitigate that.”
For Bradshaw, the new changes are necessary, but he notes that he looks forward to the day when his stores can be filled again. Bradshaw also stressed that this is unchartered territory for all business owners.
“We are all going to be learning," he said. "So we are hoping for patience and a little empathy. We may not get it right next Monday but we are going to work to get everything right.”
While businesses are subject to new regulations, many are just thankful to be open and have physical customers once again. To support your local business by visiting, or continuing to order takeout and delivery, be sure to check out www.downtownauburn.com to see an updated list on how our local stores are serving you.
"We've got some opportunities and some liberties that came Friday with businesses being open as of (Monday) — restaurants, exercise facilities, close contact businesses," said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders to the Auburn Chamber of Commerce during a virtual meeting on Tuesday. "But it's important that we don't forget about the success that we've had over the last two months driving the curve down. And if we get reckless, we get careless and we get overconfident, these numbers can go back up again .... We want to be able to enjoy some of these liberties that have been extended to us now and be safe."
To see updates from the city on the resources available to residents, go to www.auburnalabama.org/coronavirus/.