The Dunwoody City Council ordered massage and grooming businesses to close in the latest pandemic emergency response March 23. The council also discussed a possible occupational tax break for local businesses. 

In the virtual meeting, the council voted to temporarily close certain businesses that provide massage, manicure, hairstyling, and personal grooming services to protect employees and the public from the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak. The order took effect at midnight on March 23 and will last for 30 days, unless the council votes to extend it.  

The council previously banned dine-in service at restaurants — allowing takeout, delivery or drive-thrus only — and shuttered gyms and health clubs.

The new ordinance states the measure is required due to the close proximity required to deliver the services and that these establishments “shall discontinue business until this emergency declaration is terminated.” It adds that massage provided by medical doctors, chiropractors or licensed physical therapists for medical purposes is not subject to the restrictions. 

Salons that sell products as a normal course of business can continue to do so, as long as social distancing is observed. The emergency order says businesses that remain open “must restrict personal contact and maintain a distance of six feet between individuals on the property.” 

Councilmembers and staff discussed ways to help businesses that remain open as well as nonprofits that support the poor.  

Director of Economic Development Michael Starling said retailers he has spoken to are worried about paying the rent with so few customers in their stores.  

“It’s a very fluid situation right now and everyone is looking to the federal stimulus as a direction of what will be available,” he said. I have not heard from anybody who’s really concerned about their business license as much as they’re concerned about their next two or three rent checks.” 

But Linda Nabers, the city’s finance director, said she has been inundated with questions from business owners about wanting extensions to pay their occupational taxes.  

“I know people are going to start needing that [tax money] for cash flow purposes,” she said. “I of course cannot do that. It would have to be a council legislative action.” 

Also discussed was the possibility of forgiving rent to cultural nonprofits that use city facilities, including the Spruill Center for the Arts, Stage Door Players and Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild.

Mayor Lynn Deutsch’s instinct is to forgive a full month’s rent and go from there, she said. “We need to do something given the critical situation, she said.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Mayor Deutsch suggested waiving occupational tax rather than rent on city facilities.

Kevin C. Madigan is a freelance journalist based in metro Atlanta.