Restaurants, other entities reopen with restrictions
By DON FLETCHER and SHERRY DIGMON
News Staff Writers
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey loosened last week some of the restrictions placed on businesses and residents under her Stay at Home order.
Businesses considered “non-essential,” such as clothing and shoe stores, furniture stores and general retail stores are now allowed to open, with social distancing and occupancy restrictions. The same goes for barber shops, beauty salons, nail salons, gyms and other personal-service entities.
Mayor Jim Staff said he is glad to see that many of the city’s shops and stores have resumed business operations or plan to do so in the near future. He also noted that innovative ideas and business plans allowed many of them to continue serving customers while their storefronts remained locked.
“I’ve talked to some of them,” Staff said of local business owners. “They, like about everybody else, have been doing business online or setting merchandise out by the curb. They’ve been really creative. They’ve been figuring out a way to make it happen. Most order over the Internet, so I think they’ll make it. I think the ones that were really affected the most are the barbers and gyms.”
The mayor also pointed out that the city’s sales and lodging tax revenue loss has been significant but said officials would not know just how significant for at least another month, probably for several months.
“We should know in June just how much sales tax revenue we’ve lost,” he said. “But we won’t really know until January or February of next year, when the business licenses come due. Those are paid based on gross receipts. The good thing is, none of our local businesses said they plan to close for good.”
He also explained that the re-opening by Ivey of the state’s beaches doesn’t usually have any strong effect on city finances, although many local residents are now spending their dollars along the coast.
“That never has affected us,” he said. “It’s the same every year.”
No new deaths
According to May 12 updates from Alabama Department of Health and Escambia County Healthcare Authority, the death toll among county residents remained at three, and the total number of confirmed cases within the county climbed by only four over the past weekend.
A graph provided by ADPH shows a drop in the number of confirmed cases across the state over the most recent reporting periods. (For particulars on the number of samples collected at local hospitals, see the graphic published in this edition.)
So many businesses have been hard hit during the pandemic. Some have shut down while a couple have served the community and even thrived during this time. Dean’s Grill was made for such a time as this. Dean’s has no dining room, so that was not a problem. The drive-up window has stayed busy.
David’s Catfish adapted to a closed dining room with drive-through and curbside business. Judging from the long lines, people were glad to wait. David’s dining room reopened Tuesday, May 12, with a 50-percent capacity limit. Owner Rob Faircloth said drive-through and curbside service will remain available as well.
While all restaurants could open this week, not all will.
Buster’s Restaurant owner Julia Gibbs plans to reopen Monday, June 1. Johnny Gibbs and helpers have spent some of their downtime sprucing up the front of the restaurant.
John and Diane Spence, owners of Dixie Catfish Shack, said they’ll reopen June 1, allowing the pandemic a little more time to dissipate, hopefully.
Parks and pools
The mayor said he thought the city would be able to reopen its parks, but a provision of the governor’s order prohibiting congregating in areas where playground equipment exists, put the brakes on that idea.
“I would dearly love to open our parks for people walking, but I can’t,” he explained. “The governor’s order prohibits the opening of any facility with playground equipment, and all our parks have playground equipment.
A posting that appeared Tuesday on the city’s Facebook page, outlining the dates and particulars of using the pool at Tom Byrne Park, seemed to catch Staff by surprise.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” he said. “If we can make it happen, we will, but if we can’t open them, we can’t open them. I guess it’s easier to call off (the pool schedule) than it would be to open them up at the last minute. We’ll have to wait and see how that turns out.”
Officials of First National Bank & Trust have reopened the South Branch on Lindbergh Avenue, for drive-through business only. Lobbies at all three branches will remain closed until at least May 15, when the issue will be re-addressed.
United Bank officials announced that they are considering the re-opening of drive-through service at UB’s Lindbergh Avenue Branch, as well as the re-opening of lobbies at both its local branches.
Inmates producing PPE
Alabama Department of Corrections officials announced that William C. Holman Correctional Facility inmates who work at prison factory plants, as well as those at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women who work at such plants, continue to produce personal protective equipment (PPE).
As of May 7, inmates had produced 2,482 gowns and more than 100,000 face masks, prison officials reported. The personal protection equipment will be shipped to ADOC’s Office of Health Services for strategic distribution across the Department’s facilities.
All inmates now in state custody have received four face masks that were produced at the Holman and Tutwiler facilities. ADOC plans to continue face mask production in order to stockpile supplies for new intakes and to replace those that become worn or broken.