MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is looking to let many businesses re-open on May 1.
Wilson County has an exceptionally small COVID-19 outbreak ratio and only one death. Within its borders is Mt. Juliet— a city that’s been suffering since the March 3 tornadoes.
“I’m not gonna lie, it makes us a little nervous,” said Painturos co-owner Lisa Painter.
Painturos is small business pizzeria with one location in Lebanon and another in Mt. Juliet.
Painter said one of their distributors lost a warehouse in the tornado, around the same time COVID-19 became a concern and the restaurant chose to switch to carry out only.
Then, they had several employees that had traveled for spring break, many to COVID-19 hot spots, so they chose to keep only their Mt. Juliet restaurant open.
By the end of March, they made the decision to close both.
“We just made the decision for the health of our employees and customers and so forth, we just felt the responsibility to keep the doors closed in general,” Painter said.
Choice or not, essential or non-essential, the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce says businesses are hurting.
“Many of them are not only struggling… I just spoke with one 20 minutes ago, April sales will be off 88 percent compared to last year in April,” said Chamber President Mark Hinesley.
He adds that the businesses say they’ll follow any guidelines necessary as long as they can open their doors again.
“We need to give them the opportunity to play within the guidelines, get creative, and get open,” Hinesley said, “It might mean taking half the tables out of the dining room, it might mean a sidewalk sale in some cases.”
Having since lost someone they know to the virus, the Painters tell News 2 that the safety of their staff and customers is what’s most important to them. While they know financially they have to reopen, they want serious guidelines across the board.
“I believe our Lebanon Road location seats 128 people. Obviously, I would not feel comfortable having 128 people sitting in that restaurant,” Painter explained, “So whether that’s percentages or so many feet away you know the tables. As long as we felt comfortable that we were abiding by the guidelines that they set, and we felt like we could keep employees and customers safe, then I think we would be all in.”
Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty tells News 2 he’s heard from people on both sides of re-opening and that he will follow the governor’s guidance.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.