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Atlanta bars, gyms, and restaurants react to Governor Kemp lifting restrictions

Governor Kemp's new executive order removes many of the restrictions for businesses, but many owners say they'll continue with safety measures for now

ATLANTA — While the headline was Georgia's open for business, how much of a difference will you really see as Georgia lifts many COVID-19 restrictions

11Alive spoke to small business owners to see how they're updating their operations with the new executive order in place. 

The new executive order lifts many of the restrictions businesses have been operating under - but a lot of business owners say - not much will change for them, just yet.

"We're not changing anything, because for me, safety is most important, and I just want to ensure that whoever walks through these doors feels protected and feels like we care for them," Joy Christina Huffman said.

She owns C and C Social House, a members only bar in the Sweet Auburn area. 

While she says it's a relief some of the restrictions are being lifted, she's still planning to wait to change anything inside. It still feels too risky to her. 

Wes Holland is the General Manager of the Refinery Gym in West Midtown, and he agrees, they'll wait before making major changes until the pandemic dies down. 

"I think once we get into the majority of people being vaccinated. Now that it's becoming available to pretty much everyone. I think in the next couple of months, once, once that happens, I think we can start to make some more changes, pull down the plexiglass screens and start lifting some of those other measures," he said. 

RELATED: 'Georgia is open for business' | Gov. Kemp lifts many COVID-19 restrictions

Credit: WXIA

As of today, they stopped doing temperature checks at the gym, and opened up the capacity. 

That's a welcome option for Joey Ward, the Chef and Owner of Southern Belle Restaurant

"I'm excited as a business owner to be able to make that decision and I have the luxury of having the space to continue spacing out, I understand that that's not the case for all businesses so everyone has to do what they have to do but for us it makes the most sense to just continue doing what we've been doing," he said. 

All of them say they're excited to see what their business will look like once this is finally over, but it doesn't feel over to them yet. 

"I am I on the one hand I feel very excited and invigorated but on the other hand, I have a lot of mixed emotions a little bit of fear of what that would look like," Huffman explained. 

And it's not just businesses that are struggling to figure out how to adjust - long term care facilities and nursing homes are now operating under different guidelines - while trying to keep their patients safe. 

Hailey Allen didn't see her grandfather in person for a year and a half. 

When the pandemic started, he still knew she was his first grandchild, his pride and joy, now he doesn't know her name. 

"He didn't even remember me, he didn't respond to Papa, he didn't respond when I called his name," she said. 

RELATED: Georgia sees improvement in COVID rankings compared to other states

When Hailey Allen finally got to see her grandfather, she says the care providers at the long term facility where he lives told her she couldn't touch him. 

"All I could do was cry and beg and plead because it had been so long since I've felt a hug from him," she said. 

They're both fully vaccinated, and she thought the new executive order would lift the ban on interacting with him in person. 

But the order only removes the requirement to shelter in place - it does not mandate that private facilities allow people in. 

"Any extra thing we can do to help and make sure COVID goes away and doesn't continue to spread, I am all for. But if we are fully vaccinated and taking the proper precautions, there's no reason I can't see my Papa," she said. 

Long term care facilities are run like businesses - so they have the option now to change their requirements, but it is not mandated. 

Hailey says she'll keep going back to see her Papa while she waits for the rules to change.