Despite being giving the green light by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, many Black business owners in the state are not reopening their businesses in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to CNN, Kemp made the announcement on Monday that certain businesses will be allowed to reopen after a strict stay-at-home order. Certain businesses — like fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, and massage therapy businesses — can reopen as early as Friday, April 24. Restaurants and theaters will be allowed to open their doors on Monday, April 27, while bars and night clubs will remain closed for now.
Kemp faced major backlash for reopening non-essential businesses, including from health specialists who’ve warned about the unpredictability of the coronavirus and from epidemiologist who’ve said there can be dire consequences if social distancing is ignored. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms and other Democrat politicians have also denounced Kemp’s actions and they continue to urge their citizens to stay home if they’re non-essential workers.
Black business owners and entrepreneurs are also siding with stay-at-home sentiments even though they might lose money.
According to TMZ, beauty influencer Alonzo Arnold, whose clients include Solange Knowles and Missy Elliott, told the site that he doesn’t believe reopening Georgia’s economy is safe at all, and he doesn’t plan on returning to work for at least another month. He explained that the Atlanta salon where he works is set to open its doors on Friday, but Arnold says he won’t be present.
Even rapper Killer Mike — who has a chain of barbershops with his wife, Shay, in Georgia called The Swag Shop — doesn’t plan on reopening soon. He told TMZ, “At this time as a business, we aren’t comfortable opening. So we’re going to wait a while before we reopen.” Mike went on to explain how the coronavirus has been gravely and disproportionately hitting the Black community and this is the group that his business caters to. “We don’t want our customers and our barbers in danger,” he said.
Meanwhile, the owner of a thriving private membership club in Atlanta, The Gathering Spot, also had a message about not reopening. “This is a complete failure of leadership. I don’t understand the decision. We’re not opening despite the order,” said CEO and Co-Founder Ryan Wilson. “We could technically open on April 27, but we’re not going to because it’s not safe to do so.”
The Gathering Spot, owned by Wilson and TK Petersen, developed their club to be a space for social networking, meetings, events, co-working and more. It’s dynamic location has well over 2000 members and have hosted the likes of Drake, Ludacris, Joe Biden, Tracee Ellis Ross, Corey Booker, Will Ferrell, T.I. and more.
Wilson also acknowledged the coronavirus’ disproportionate impact on Black communities. “I can’t ask my team to come here — and definitely can’t ask the members to come here — knowing that there’s a disproportionate impact happening on the primary community that we serve,” he said. “I think it’s wrong and hopefully the business community loudly criticizes this decision.”
Wilson asked that instead of going along with the governor’s order, people should find other ways to support small business. He mentioned that The Gathering Spot has already donated over $16,000 in grants for small local businesses. They plan to raise more money via their “We All We Got” fund, to continue to provide resources to local businesses in need.