KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- An executive order released by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is forcing Tri-Cities restaurants and gyms to either temporarily close or adapt their business models. The mandate orders eating establishments to halt dine-in service until April 6th. Only drive-through, takeout, and delivery service are permitted. Gyms and fitness centers are also ordered to close until that date.
The impact of empty booths and empty bars is being felt by restaurants across the Tri-Cities.
“Business is cut in half already. There’s no doubt. Sales have dropped tremendously,” said Shane Winegar, general manager of East Coast Wings & Grill. “I mean it’s definitely impacting the servers really bad. They have very little income now.”
Under the mandate, restaurants like East Coast Wings & Grill are allowed to sell alcohol in closed containers for takeout and delivery to those 21 and up. This is permitted with the purchase of food.
Model City Tap House owner Shelton Clark said concerns over stopping the spread of coronavirus caused his business to shift exclusively to take-out and delivery service last week.
“It was a game changer all the sudden. We just took the initiative to take today, and we’re just cleaning everything,” Clark said.
All gyms and fitness centers are also forced to close under the mandate. Eric Ruhm, owner of Energy Fitness in Johnson City, said he doesn’t agree with the complete shutdown. Ruhm said his gym already doesn’t serve more than 10 people at a time.
“I do know that flattening the curve is very important,” he said. “[But] I would think that we would think a little bit harder about what facilities we’re closing, and why we’re closing them. And do it in a more constructive manner, rather than an all-inclusive manner, taking everybody out.”
The mandate encourages gyms to pursue digital programming. Ruhm said he’s been developing a fitness community app in recent months, which he expects to launch soon.
“I look forward to helping people in the future, inside their homes,” he said.
Across the board, everyone is eager for the ban to lift.
“We can’t wait until April 6th. It’ll be a good day, we’ll be back in business,” said Winegar.
Winegar encouraged the public to support local restaurants in the community during this time.
Clark said Model City Tap House would only be adding beverages from local breweries to their service starting this week.
“We’re ready, whenever day one comes. Our beers will be good, clean, fresh, and everything like that,” he said. “We’re going to beat this sucker, I promise you.”