The Dunwoody City Council in a special called teleconference meeting on March 18 unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that essentially halts non-essential city services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Another special emergency meeting to consider restrictions on restaurants and bars is set to be held at 5 p.m. An emergency meetings related to the pandemic as long as all council members and the city manager agree, according to the city attorney. The call-in number is 866-848-2216 and access code is 7611919247#.

“I’m not sure at what extent we need to start thinking in this realm,” Councilmember John Heneghan said during the March 18 morning conference call meeting of possibly closing bars and delivery.

“When we see bars and restaurants and parties crowded with people … that scares me,” he said.

Heneghan said President Donald Trump is asking people to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation is to keep crowds to fewer than 50 people. He also cited the city of Brookhaven’s recent emergency ordinance shutting down restaurants and bars except for take-out and delivery.

“If we keep seeing these crowds [at bars and restaurants], and people are going against everybody’s recommendations, we may need to take action,” Heneghan said.

Mayor Lynn Deutsch and the other council members appeared to agree. Deutsch even asked if the council could hold another conference call meeting at 4 p.m. on March 18 to consider how to regulate bars and restaurants.

“We need to do this as soon as possible,” Deutsch said during the March 18 morning conference call.  “This is such an extreme situation.”

City Attorney Cecil McLendon recommended allowing him and City Manager Eric Linton work on an agenda including more rules and regulations for certain actions before calling for the time of a meeting. Shortly after this morning’s meeting adjourned, a 5 p.m. emergency meeting on March 18 was posted on the city’s website.

On March 16, Deutsch said Dunwoody was going to wait up to 48 hours to see if Gov. Brian Kemp was going to issue an order about restrictions for bars and restaurants before making the city decided to make its own decision.

The emergency ordinance approved during the morning March 18 conference call declares a “local emergency” in the city and went into effect immediately. The ordinance lasts for 30 days unless the council votes to extend it.

The ordinance states essential city services will continue, such as police coverage and others related to public health. But all public hearings of boards and city-affiliated meetings, such as the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals, are suspended until the ordinance is lifted.

The City Council will continue to operate and assemble and can hold meetings via teleconference under the ordinance.

This story has been updated to say the March 18 meeting at 5 p.m. will allow the council to consider restrictions on bars and restaurants and not necessarily order a temporary ban on dine-in eating.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.