Popular downtown bar, restaurant takes a COVID-19 timeout as Columbus cases mount

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Around Memorial Day when Columbus bars and restaurants started to reopen, people were looking forward to this weekend — the Fourth of July. 

The hope was things would be closer to normal.

Not so much as one popular downtown restaurant has opted out because of the COVID-19 surge in Muscogee County.

Nonic Beer Bar and Kitchen on Broadway has chosen to close for the next two weeks over concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

“Multiple people who were COVID positive downtown not observing any kind of social distancing in various bars,” said Garrett Lawrence, co-owner Nonic Beer Bar and Kitchen. “We have some staff that know them. Have been in contact with them.”

That promoted a timeout.

“While we have had nobody who has tested positive we felt like a good two-week incubation period to let people go get tested would be more comforting to our staff, and our customers and everyone else to let them know everyone was safe and we were doing the right thing,” Lawrence said.

The top public health official in West Georgia says cases are climbing and it is clear why that is happening.

“… large congregant settings where people are getting back together and not paying attention to the rules and regulations that have been set forward,” said Dr. Beverly Townsend, director of the West Central Georgia Health District. “And that’s due because people are able to do those things and they are doing those things.”

Two other business owned by Lawrence and his partners will remain open. Jarfly, a popular Midtown restaurant and Maltitude, a downtown beer store, plan to continue to operate. Those businesses are better equipped to social distance and control crowds than Nonic.

Two other downtown restaurants, Black Cow and Vertigo Fusion Kitchen, will be closed on July 4th and 5th. Co-owner Stephanie Woodham said it was a move to give the staffs a break. Both of those restaurants have been open throughout the pandemic doing a brisk takeout business when dine-in customers were not allowed.

To be clear, many downtown businesses and restaurants will be open over the Fourth weekend. And the main tourist attraction, Whitewater Express, will continue to put rafts on the river.

But when the numbers climb and the concerns rise, the only thing you can do is what you think is right.

“Ultimately, while it’s a difficult decision when you see dollars going out and no money coming in, you have questions about how long you can sustain this,” Lawrence said. “We know that it’s the right decision and that’s what makes it easier to do.”

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