JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group issued updated guidance for restaurants, retail establishments, and large attractions on reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Director of the state Economic Recovery Group Mark Ezell told New Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that the group is taking great consideration before setting these guidelines.
“With all the guidelines that we do we are always checking with the health department in making sure that our mitigation of COVID-19 is being successful and Tennessee is at a point where we’ve been able to open up businesses and still have plenty of capacity in our healthcare that we can take care of those businesses and allow them to open,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is make sure we can maximise the opportunity for these business owners to bring people back to work, to do it in a safe manner and as we continue to follow the health guidelines and the health surge numbers, we can see what we have the opportunity to do in the future.”
One local live music venue owner told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that he is wary of reopening so soon.
Ed Snodderly, owner of the Down Home in Downtown Johnson City is still considering reopening, even after the new guidelines allow him to do so on Friday.
“Definitely plans of reopening – as soon as possible, but what is ‘possible’? Still trying to understand all of the nuances of possible. My feeling would be to err on the side of waiting longer and we will just probably feel it out the best we can,” he said. “Right now we keep moving shows farther down into the year and acts are very understanding.”
The first show the Down Home has booked for now is for the final Saturday in June, with a hefty fall schedule planned.
In Kingsport, Gypsy Circus Cider Company is more open to the idea of reopening, as the cidery/restaurant has been largely unaffected by COVID-19, except for the live musical performance aspect – but they have a plan to fix that under the new guidelines.
“Entertainment has been a huge part of Gypsy Circus, I have bands trying to get on this stage all the time, and like ‘sorry, I am booked!’ but we have an outdoor stage and we can’t wait to put people on that, probably is what we’re going to start with,” said Gypsy Circus Employee Jonathan Taylor. “I’ll have to get in contact with a lot of bands that had to cancel, and it’s really hit them hard because a lot of people that do entertainment and travel, that’s their main income.”
The Kingsport cider hub has put plans in place to safely reopen operations completely.
“We have all these disposable menus, we’ve spaced out all of our tables 6-feet apart and you know, if somebody’s getting too chummy I’ll just (pull them apart motion),” Taylor said. “I just can’t wait for it to get back to what it was. I can’t tell you how fun it is to pour beer for somebody (laughs) I never thought I would miss it.”
Gypsy Circus has been releasing new drink products throughout the pandemic, and plan to continue to do so, Taylor said. A new red wine is to be released Friday.
On Memorial day, Gypsy Circus will be hosting a shrimp boil from 11:30 a.m. through 9 p.m.
Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.