AUGUSTA, Ga. – In South Carolina, bars have to stop serving alcohol at 11 o’clock tonight… but Georgia bars can keep serving until they close.
In the past, Augusta bars have been packed with patrons on New Years Eve, but tonight CDC guidelines will be enforced.
“Our guidance on limits to bar capacity and gathering size remain in effect. And as I said yesterday as well, they can be enforced by any state or local law enforcement,” said Governor Brian Kempduring a Thursday morning press conference.
Gov. Kemp says the largest percentage of COVID cases in Georgia is coming from 18-29 year olds.
When you consider the average age of bar patrons is 21-34… that raises some concerns. So, Kemp is urging drastic precautions for people who do decide to go out for New Years Eve.
“If you do go out, I would encourage you to avoid going home these next few weeks to prevent the spread of the virus to other loved ones or other individuals that would be more at risk.”
Michael Yonesaki is co-owner of Metro Coffee House and Bar. He says his customers are his number one priority.
“Our customers’ health and safety always comes first. I know that sounds cliche, but every bar owner and restaurant owner i know… we’re a tight knit community. We were all very proactive in making sure we were on the forefront of everything,” said Yonesaki. “It’s a medical issue, not political. And the safety of our patrons always comes first.”
Bars can’t currently operate at full capacity. With New Years Eve being arguably the busiest night of the year for bar owners, this could have a huge impact on their business.
“I will say 35% or 50 maximum capacity does severely limit what we can do. And as such, it does have a definite financial impact that you can’t ignore,” said Yonesaki.Local law enforcement agencies will be enforcing CDC guidelines about gatherings. According to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, deputies will be proactively patrolling downtown to make sure people are celebrating in a safe manner
Deputies will also be on the lookout for anyone getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. Burke County Sheriff’s Office posted this to their Facebook page reminding people not to drink and drive.
And remember, if you’re toasting the new year tonight, remember to be responsible. Designate a driver, use public transportation, or use ride share apps.