The new ordinance to shut down all alcohol sales by the drink at 11:30 p.m. is directly targeting the college bars in our town. Unfortunately, this ordinance will affect more than just the college bars downtown who are not following state guidelines. All local businesses are all barely hanging on. This action effectively shuts down a good source of income for both bars and restaurants, as many of us do our business in alcohol sales after 11:30 p.m. on the weekends. With such limited capacity, that extra time is essential to earn enough to pay the bills.

It’s not OK to punish all businesses in the service industry for a few wild bars that should be written a citation. The local government should shut down individual businesses posing a health risk, not every business in an already struggling industry. Bars were shut down for two and a half months in Athens, just in time for the deserted summer season. Time to hire code enforcement and hold businesses to the standards many are already following at their financial loss.

When you walk around Athens, you see that most businesses are doing things right. These local businesses want to keep their whole community safe and are proud of their efforts to keep both staff and customers safe. We want our community to thrive and not suffer another shut down.

I know that many college students feel like this disease doesn’t affect them much, so they feel they don’t have to worry about masks and social distancing. Many freshmen are going to be sandwiched into Petri dish dorms for the year due to UGA policy.

We are in the middle of the pandemic, and we all can carry the disease to our teachers, parents and grandparents. Wear your mask as a good citizen, out of concern for these amazing professors, your peers and UGA staff who live in our community. Wear your mask for your parents and grandparents.

It is possible that coronavirus positives in July are from healthy people hanging in friends’ homes at gatherings without masks, but all bars get blamed and penalized for it. The early closing times are in preparation for the college students’ arrival. Please consider this when you walk around this community in which you will participate for your UGA career. Please mask up to help keep the numbers down so we can stay open. My business supports six different families and four different children.

Unfortunately, this preemptive move by the local government does not truly mitigate risk away from college kids. Many will be in the dorms. We all worry those who feel immune will keep partying. This will only drive them to crowd small spaces at house parties where there are no masks or hand sanitizer anywhere, and cause way more over drinking and recklessness as these kids have no bartenders keeping things under control.

What we need is a community agreement to all wear masks while indoors in public spaces, instead of more shutdowns. UGA students are a huge part of our community. You can make a huge difference in the survival of our local businesses by agreeing to be considerate, wearing masks, and supporting local businesses in our funky little town.

We all have a different level of comfort with moving around safely. We all have different health levels. Let’s protect all of our community, because we all have to work, whether it’s at a bar, a restaurant, an office or at school.

Get some sun and some laughter. Meet up with friends, have a drink and order some food. Stay home and binge watch movies. Live in a way that’s right for you, but don’t assume everyone must follow your way. Move safely and return to life. Support businesses by visiting them with friends and wearing masks to keep yourself and the staff safe whether outside, inside or when unable to socially distance.

You do you, just do so safely, and wear a mask while out and about. Let’s help keep all businesses open. No one industry is to blame just as no one lifestyle is to blame. Let’s all do our best to protect others, wearing that mask while we live our lives and run our businesses. Let’s keep each other safe while adapting to our new world.

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