AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Starting next week the state of Georgia plans to rollback many of its COVID-19 restrictions. That means no ban on large gatherings and less social distancing requirements for bars, restaurants, and other businesses.

Now business owners have to decide how, and if, they want to fully reopen. It’s a tough decision that business owners have had to grapple with for more than a year, the balance of staying safe vs. making a living.

“It was a really rough year. 2020 was rough,” said Havird Ursy, owner of Fat Man’s Hospitality in downtown Augusta.

But Gov. Brian Kemp’s latest executive order leaves business owners with a choice to go back to life as normal or proceed with caution.

For Usry, whose gross revenue was down about 50 percent from previous years, that decision was easy.

“We’re ready to get things rolling again,” said Ursy. “I think the customer needs the option and we also need the freedom to open our business back up. We don’t want handouts from the government. We want to create our own revenue and create our own business.”

But for Kelley Seamon at New Moon Café, she feels it’s better safe than sorry.

“As a company decision, we decided to continue doing the social distancing,” said Seamon. “It’s for the customers. We’re concerned of their safety too but also our staff. We don’t want to overwhelm either one of those groups.”

New Moon Café still has not opened for indoor dining. They say they hope to do so after the Masters, but even then, it’ll be socially distanced and likely limited capacity.

Though they take different approaches, both agree having the option is an exciting step in the right direction. Meanwhile on the other side of the river DHEC warns of a possible fourth wave of the virus due to people letting their guard down.

Georgia business owners say they’ll be monitoring the numbers, but Usry says he trusts the governor’s leadership. Officials at the Georgia’s Department of Public Health responded to the rollback saying they still recommend the basics like washing hands and social distancing.

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