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Forsyth County orders all restaurants to close dine-in service
Michele and Bob Kehres took the old corner bar at Local Kitchen & Tap and extended it across the restaurant's space and clustered flatscreen TVs above. - photo by Brian Paglia

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Forsyth County announced further measures in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic Friday night, including the closure of dine-in and/or outdoor/patio services at restaurants as well as the suspension of some penalties and fines for local business owners.

Commission Chairwoman Laura Semanson signed the declarations March 27, which also include the suspension of certain purchasing policies related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and allowing for online public bid openings.

Semanson was able to sign the orders as part of powers granted to her when she declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, March 18.

All restaurants, food courts, brewpubs, breweries and other "eating establishments" in unincorporated Forsyth County will be restricted to delivery, takeout and drive-thru services starting at noon on Saturday, March 28. Violators could face a $1,000 fine or up to 60 days in jail.

The declaration makes an exception for dining services in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and "other similar facilities."

In addition, businesses in Forsyth County won't have to pay occupation taxes until the county's state of emergency is lifted. Occupation taxes were due by existing businesses on March 31, or within 30 days of opening for new businesses.

Semanson signed the declarations to "promote and secure the safety and protection of the civilian population," according to the document.

Semanson signed a declaration on Friday, March 20, urging county residents to "avoid holding, sponsoring, or attending non-mandatory assemblies or gatherings of 10 or more individuals" while the county is in a state of emergency.

Many restaurants in Cumming and Forsyth County have already closed their dining areas and offered other service options to comply with social distancing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but still remain in business.

Forsyth County leaders previously sought to help some local restaurants by permitting them to sell closed packages of alcohol, such as unopened bottles of beer and wine, on Thursday, March 21.