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Alabama lifts COVID-19 occupancy limits on businesses

Gov. Kay Ivey lifts emergency occupancy rates just in time for the holidays.
Updated: Nov. 5, 2020 at 9:18 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Retailers, fitness centers and entertainment venues are no longer required to limit the number of customers inside of their stores, just in time for the holidays.

Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Scott Harris announced updates to Alabama’s “safer at home” order Thursday morning that has made it possible for restaurants and many other businesses to accommodate more people with certain restrictions in place.

Under the updated order:

  • Emergency occupancy rates were removed for retailers, fitness centers and entertainment venues.
  • An exception to social distancing rules will be allowed for many businesses, including barber shops, hair salons, gyms and restaurants, if people are wearing masks and separated by an “impermeable” barrier.

The Alabama Retailers Association said this is a positive change for businesses who get most of their customers during the holiday months.

“This is the busiest time of year for businesses and a lot of businesses make a good chunk of their money for the whole entire year during the months of November and December,” said Nancy Dennis, director of public relations for the Alabama Retailers Association.

“It is important that they get as many customers as they can in their doors, or buying from them in other ways, during these last two months of the year,” Dennis went on to say.

Chappy’s Deli in Prattville is one of many restaurants who have had to adapt during the pandemic. When they reopened in May, they added plexiglass to the tops of their booths. A change that General Manager Mark Wade said helped boost their customer intake by 40%.

“It has quite frankly allowed us to operate during these times. I don’t know what we would have done without it,” Wade said. “It has allowed us to keep our employees working and at good hours."

An exception to social-distancing rules will be allowed for many businesses, including barber...
An exception to social-distancing rules will be allowed for many businesses, including barber shops, hair salons, gyms, and restaurants, if people are wearing masks and separated by an “impermeable” barrier.(Source: WSFA)

Small businesses that have limited spaced to spread out guests are especially grateful for Ivey’s announcement.

NFIB state director Rosemary Elebash said in a statement, “Small businesses are doing everything they can to get through this crisis, but they’ll never make it without customers. Lifting the occupancy limits on stores, fitness centers, and entertainment venues will relieve some of the financial pressure these businesses have operated under since March.”

Meanwhile, Alabama has seen a recent increase in COVID-19 cases. On Thursday, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 1,151 new cases of COVID-19. Alabama’s death toll stands at 3,026.

Harris said Alabama has seen 22,000 new cases reported in the last 14 days, though some are due to a backlog. Alabama is seeing an increase in the numbers since last month with the percent positive rate at almost 10%.

Despite the pandemic, the Alabama Retailers Association reports that sales tax numbers in Alabama have grown almost 8 percent through September of 2020 over the same period in 2019.

To avoid potential crowds of shoppers this holiday season, the Alabama Retail Association encourages people to shop early.

Copyright 2020 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.