With the state allowing businesses and restaurants to start reopening amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Old Fourth Ward Business Association (O4WBA) has been busy creating a re-opening strategy for its members, which includes a “pledge to public health.”

According to O4WBA executive director Emma Tinsley, the organization’s aim is to clarify the state’s mandated safety requirements while enabling businesses in the community to collectively commit to additional public safety measures.

Tinsley said the three-tiered public health pledge is based on feedback from more than 30 local business owners, along with best practices across the country. She said Matt Ruppert, owner of Noni’s Deli and founder of O4WBA, took the reins and encouraged the business association to come up with a plan.

“Business are getting nervous and excited to reopen, but there hasn’t been a lot of guidance,” Tinsley said. “We wanted to set some objectives and offer guidance and additional safety measures for the community when the businesses do reopen.”

As of this week, 20 businesses had signed the pledge so far, Tinsley said.

The three-tiered plan follows CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health guidelines – wearing masks, stringent cleaning, social distancing –  but also goes further with additional suggestions depending on the type of business and occupancy. Some of those additional measures include temperature testing, installing alarms to remind staff when to clean, and contact tracing of customers.

Businesses that take the pledge will receive a certificate to hang up that includes a scannable QR code that will allow customers to see the implemented safety measures.

TInsley said businesses taking part will also be able to share resources such as buying personal protection equipment suppliers, access to a group business forum for active discussion, and group bulk ordering.

She said the organization was not planning to tell member businesses when they could reopen. “The business should open when they are ready and feel comfortable. Every business is different.”

Tinsley said that no Old Fourth businesses had permanently closed during the pandemic thanks to the various federal and local loan program, but more capital resources would be needed in the future to ensure that small businesses survive not only in O4W but around the country.

For more, visit o4wba.com.

Collin KelleyEditor

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.