CHATTANOOGA, Tenn – Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke responds to business reopenings

In a statement released Monday, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke responded to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s new order to begin staged reopening of businesses and restaurants.

“Yesterday I learned that, despite public and private assurances otherwise, the city of Chattanooga would not be making its own decisions for the reopening of restaurants. This has understandably caused a lot of confusion for a lot of people in our city.

First things first: Chattanooga will obey the law, and I will do everything possible to ensure its success. I want every restaurant to make payroll and I want to protect as many Chattanoogans as possible from contracting the coronavirus. I will be glad to cooperate with the Governor, Mayor Coppinger, and the Hamilton County Health Department for the good of everyone, as we share the common goal of keeping people safe and healthy.

We can and must restart our economy safely, keeping public health at the fore. That is what is best for Chattanoogans; it is also what is best for business. Workers must feel confident that going back to their jobs will not threaten their health or their families’ health. Consumers will only return to restaurants, shops, and other establishments if they know it is safe to do so.

I do not believe that is accomplished under the State’s current plan. It fails to account for the growing number of positive cases across the state, and especially in Southeast Tennessee. It goes against the warnings of public health experts and doctors like those at the Tennessee Medical Association and Vanderbilt University. It lacks the groundwork we need to ensure that restaurant owners and managers understand their responsibilities and have the supplies they need to keep people safe from the virus.

We also know that if cases increase, the impact will be felt hardest by the most vulnerable people in our city. So I make two pledges:

First, I will do everything in my power to ensure that Chattanooga businesses have the advice and personal protective equipment they need to open safely.

Second, our City government will continue to reach out and look for ways to help those affected by the ongoing pandemic and economic stoppage.

In the meantime, no matter what is happening in our economy, Chattanoogans should remember: you have a responsibility to keep yourself and those around you safe. Wear a mask when you go into the public. Wash your hands frequently. Stay six feet away from other people. Only go places that are observing best practices.

Thank you and please stay safe.”