The Sandy Springs City Council is limiting restaurants and bars to take-out, drive-thru and delivery service, and shuttering many other types of businesses, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, effective March 20 at midnight. 

The ordinance, which came at a March 20 special-called meeting, closes all bars and nightclubs that do not serve food; gyms and fitness centers; movie theaters; live performance venues; bowling alleys; arcades; and private social clubs.

“The only thing that’s more important than the survival of our businesses in this community is public health,” said Mayor Rusty Paul.

Cafeterias in hospitals, nursing homes, or similar facilities are currently exempt from the restrictions.

The ordinance allows restaurants and bars to sell unopened bottles of beer and wine for take-out. 

“It’s been one of the things the restaurant industry has asked that we do,” Paul said.

The decision comes as an amendment to an emergency ordinance that was approved by the council at a March 17 meeting. Because it is an amendment to the original ordinance, it has the same timeframe of 60 days. On or before that deadline, the council can re-enact or repeal the ordinance, the city said. Otherwise, the ordinance would automatically expire after 60 days from its original approval on March 17.

The ordinance was unanimously approved at the virtual meeting, with Councilmembers Chris Burnett and Tibby DeJulio phoning in and all other councilmembers and the mayor present.

As recently as March 17, the mayor and council were keeping dine-in restaurants open due to the possible effect on businesses. The newly announced restrictions and closures are similar to those passed recently in neighboring cities, including Atlanta.

Paul said the recommendation to close them came from Dr. Carlos del Rio, chair of the Department of Global Health in the division of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine.

“One of the things he was very clear on is the importance, at this point, is closing restaurants’ in-house dining to be able to continue and facilitate the social distancing, which the public health officials say is crucial to slowing the spread of this particular disease,” Paul said.

To encourage a shift in dining, Paul has proclaimed March 20 as Takeout and Delivery Night in Sandy Springs.

“We know that this is devastating to small businesses,” Paul said.” I know how crucial this is.”

“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that please residents of Sandy Springs and adjoining areas, support these restaurants,” Paul added. “What we are doing is devastating and we understand the impact of this on these businesses.”

“This is a hard decision for everybody but I agree with you, this is one of the things we just need to do,” Councilmember John Paulson said.

For a full list of restaurants that are currently offering take-out and delivery, visit

Paul also said the Sandy Springs Police Department is offering business checks to keep an eye on affected facilities while they are closed.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on March 19 ordered closure of bars and clubs that do not serve food; gyms and fitness centers; movie theaters; live performance venues; bowling alleys; arcades; and private social clubs, as well as restricted restaurants and other eating establishments to take-out, delivery or drive-thru service.

The cities of Brookhaven and Dunwoody previously placed similar restrictions on restaurants and other eating and drinking establishments, barring them from dine-in service. Brookhaven also shuttered entertainment venues.

Hannah Greco is writer and media communications specialist based in Atlanta.