Many restaurant owners in our area are living by the adage that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should or will.
While governors in Georgia and Tennessee have declared that restaurants can begin to reopen amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, many owners have chosen to wait for several reasons, including the health of their customers and employees and the lack of restaurant and safety supplies.
They are also unclear whether bringing back workers who have been furloughed and are receiving unemployment makes sense.
"It's just not as easy as opening your front door," said Cherita Adams at Blue Orleans. "Many of my staff are college students who have gone home. Plus, I just wouldn't feel right about putting my customers at risk."
Since area restaurants were forced to close their dine-in options in early March, the Times Free Press has been running a list of more than 120 restaurants and the services they offer. Only about a half dozen of the nearly 60 from the list that have been contacted so far have opened up their dining rooms.
"I'm not ready to do that and risk my employees or customers getting sick," said Hugh Harris, owner of Farm to Fork in Ringgold, Georgia. His restaurant will continue offering takeout, delivery and curbside pickup.
Shannon Fuller said on Sunday that she didn't want to risk opening up Zarzour's on Rossville Avenue and restocking her food supply only to be able to seat people at half of her 10 tables.
"Plus, nobody knows if this thing is over," she said. "I don't want to get anybody sick."
Owners are also trying to figure out whether opening to half capacity makes financial sense for employees who are getting unemployment and, in some cases, drawing more than they might make at the restaurant.
Jason Bowers, who owns the Bitter Alibi and Daily Ration, said all of those things have gone into his decision to keep the status quo for now, offering a limited menu with takeout, curbside and delivery options.
"Plus, my supplier has not ramped up its operation," he said. "I can't order 200 pounds of ground beef if he only has 60 pounds."
Bluff View Art District General Manager Angela Niemeyer said she will need to find supplies of gloves and masks, which are required to be worn by restaurant personnel, and hold training sessions before she reopens the dining rooms at Tony's Pasta, Rembrandt's and Back Inn Cafe.
The Flying Squirrel tried pivoting to takeout and delivery options in March, but closed entirely a few days later. Co-owner Max Poppel said he and business partner Dan Rose are waiting to get the guidelines from the city and Hamilton County about what is required to reopen before they make a decision.
"We would hate to have to close up again should something happen," Poppel said.
That is a big consideration for everyone.
"We would hate to have someone get sick, either an employee or a customer," said Adelle's Creperie owner Carla Pritchard, "but we would also hate to have to shut back down. There are lots of things to consider."
For now, the restaurant on Main Street has set up cash registers outside, and the food is brought to the customers.
"The weather has been nice enough, people are sitting in the parking lot and eating," Pritchard said.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.