Did The Governor Just Shut My Business Down?

By Will White

This post was written at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. We believe that it was accurate and up to date as of that time. However, because of the rapid, daily changes in the political, business, and legal climates, we cannot guarantee the post’s currentness.

Yesterday, like many other States so far, the Governor of Georgia signed Executive Order, making many of the social distancing guidelines recommended by experts into law. The Executive Order goes into effect Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at 12 p.m. (Noon) and expires Monday, April 6, 2020 at Noon.

The text of the actual Order can be found here: https://gov.georgia.gov/document/2020-executive-order/03232001/download

Because they have seen other states and local entities shut down, many small business owners are wondering: Did Governor Kemp just shut my business down?

The short answer is no, unless you are a ‘bar’ as defined by Code Section 3-1-2 (2.1).  However, for all other businesses, churches, and non-profits, there is now a limit of ten (10) persons that can be gathered at one (1) location if such gatherings requires persons to stand or be seated within six (6) feet of any other person.

What does that mean?

Bars are defined “as any premises at which a retailer licensed . . .” to sell alcoholic beverages derives 75 percent or more total annual gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises. O.C.G.A.  3-1-2 (2.1) (emphasis added). So, if your business gets 75 percent of its money from alcohol sales for consumption on the premises, your business is probably shut down (Note: this probably covers ‘night clubs’ as seen in the media reports, but probably does not cover ‘retail package liquor stores’ that are covered elsewhere in the Georgia Code).

For all other businesses, non-profits, and churches, you can still remain open if:

  1. You can limit the total number of people (probably including employees) to ten (10) at a single location (which probably means an entire building and not individual floors, but would probably not include multiple offices in separate physical locales); or
  2. You can ensure that groups of more than ten can stand or be seated more than six (6) feet apart.

If you believe that you fall under either of the provisions above that allows your business to remain open, there are still a few things to be mindful of:

  1. This post only covers the Governor’s Order of 3/23/20. Several Local Governments have promulgated restrictions that go farther. You should do your best to stay up to date with both the State and Local laws, ordinances, rules and regulations for your business as you continue to operate.
  2. Several medical experts have called for restrictions beyond social distancing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. The Governor has asked citizens to call out and avoid businesses that do not follow his Order. So, if you stay in business, it is probably a good idea to let people know what you’re doing to comply with the Governor’s mandates.

We know that these are uncertain and scary times for small business owners. After all, we run a small business. It is our hope that posts like these, meant to inform, will help ease some of the stress. As always, please stay safe and let us know if we can help.

We are making this post to inform as much as possible. It is not our intent to give legal advice or to create an attorney/client relationship. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney. If you have questions about your particular situation, please give us a call, send us an email, or request a video conference. We’ll be happy to assist.