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Local businesses begin to reopen under more relaxed state restrictions

Local businesses have had to learn to operate differently since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but things are finally returning to normal – or at least, closer to normal.

American Health and Fitness district manager Randy Seal said the gym reopened with several restrictions when Gov. Kay Ivey allowed fitness centers to reopen a couple weeks ago, and the gym has slowly regained popularity since then.

“A lot of (patrons) were really ready to get back in here,” Seal said.

The gym opened with select hours and days but has gradually begun offering more hours with the additional precautions. Classes are still suspended, the children’s area is closed, and the sauna and water fountain are off limits.

“We are really appreciative to our members and how they have helped us out during this time,” Seal said. “They have all been really understanding and respectful of the extra precautions we have to take. I think they all understand they have to help us with safety precautions because that is the only way we are going to be able to be open.”

Local restaurants are also beginning to open their dining rooms, with limited seating and tables spread farther apart. Numerous local establishments had remained closed to dine-in even after the state gave the go-ahead to reopen May 11.

Russellville’s 43 Grill owner Jason Davis said a lot of factors went into deciding to hold off on opening up the dining room.

“With the number of cases we were seeing in Franklin County, we wanted to make sure we made the right decision to protect our customers,” Davis said.

After a few additional weeks of only allowing curbside pickup, 43 Grill has opened every other booth and implemented additional safety precautions for customers.

As the state continues to monitor the ongoing coronavirus, restrictions and recommendations are likely to continue to be updated in the weeks and months ahead. The current Safer at Home order is set to expire July 3 at 5 p.m. but is, of course, subject to any changes from Ivey and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

In the meantime, businesses and citizens are adjusting to a new normal of distancing, maximum occupancies, masks and other precautions.

Seal said it is just nice to finally see the gym doors open. “It was something we were all really looking forward to,” Seal said. “You get to where you know these people, and when you don’t see them for a while, you start to miss them.”

Davis said 43 Grill is still figuring things out as they go along and asked that customers be patient. He echoed Seal’s appreciation for the community’s support during this time.

“It really means a lot,” Davis said. “We are thankful for everyone who continues to come out and support us. We are really lucky to have this kind of community support.”