‘I’d Rather Be Alive’: Why Some Georgia Business Owners Are Not Reopening

Movie theaters in Georgia can open on April 27. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Gyms, bowling alleys, barbershops, and tattoo parlors will be allowed to open in Georgia on Friday, Governor Brian Kemp announced this week. Many won’t.

With more than 20,000 confirmed cases and 818 deaths due to the coronavirus in Georgia, Kemp is pitching the reopening of nonessential businesses as an unshackling of the private sector that will jump-start the economy and put money back in workers’ pockets. Some owners are eager to take him up on the offer, but others aren’t quite ready to be unshackled in a state where the case count keeps rising and local leaders are still having trouble obtaining tests. Georgia does not meet the White House’s benchmarks for reopening businesses, and reopening them risks a second wave of infections.

Here’s why nine Georgia business owners are declining to take Kemp up on his offer to reopen their doors:

“It’s putting economics before lives. [Mr. Kemp’s] putting it out there like he’s doing us a favor, but I’d rather be alive than run my business right now.” —Diane Fall, owner, Maxim Barbers

“We are not going to be a vector of death and suffering.” —Mark Lebos, owner, Strong Gym

“The fact that he said it’s okay to open doesn’t mean that the virus transmission is different or that less people will die. I didn’t rely on his guidance to close. I sure as hell won’t be relying on him to tell me when to reopen.” —Tara Villalvazo, owner, Mystic Owl Tattoo

“Georgia is like a guinea pig … Nobody wants the economy to reopen more quickly than I do, but not at the cost of deaths of more people.” —Christian Favalli, owner, La Grotta restaurant 

“Whoever opens up in the spa industry is crazy, you are asking for it! And who is going to come back and work? It’s not worth the risk.” —Will Ho, owner, Treat Your Feet spa

“We don’t think [opening to in-person dining is] wise. If there’s not a vaccine, and there are not enough tests, anybody who comes in the restaurant may have the COVID-19 virus. There are too many instances you can’t control.” —Bill Mabry, owner, Mr. Everything Cafe

“The pandemic is killing me and my business, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. I understand why Kemp is doing it. He wants the economy to get better. But I don’t want to put my girls in jeopardy.” —Peiru Kim, owner, Sugarcoat nail salon

“Every shop is worried. Most of them are not trying to open. They’re still concerned. They’re trying to wait at least another month.” —David Gonzalez, co-owner, Atlanta Tattoo League

“I believe it is too soon. If people actually start going out, the numbers will spike and it will be as catastrophic here as it was in New York.” —Sherrie Smith, owner, Imperial Hair Salon

‘Rather Be Alive’: Georgia Business Owners On Not Reopening