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AG’s office: Diners can enter restaurants for take-out orders

Following the citation of multiple local businesses for allowing customers to enter the building to pick up take-out orders, the Alabama Attorney General’s office has stated that such practices are lawful and within the restrictions in both the recently-expired “Stay at Home” order and the newly-issued “Safer at Home” order.

Earlier in the week, the Selma Police Department (SPD) cited multiple local eateries – KFC, McDonalds, American Deli and Subway – for allegedly being out of step with state health orders, forcing restaurants to close their dining rooms altogether.

According to KFC Owner Mark Woodson, the restrictions have already cut his business down by 40 percent.

Selma City Councilman Carl Bowline said he received a call early Tuesday afternoon from KFC saying that the dining room had been shut down and no customers were being allowed inside per an order from the SPD.

Bowline said he contacted the Attorney General’s office in pursuit of clarification on the issue – in an email Wednesday morning, Assistant Alabama Attorney General Jeremy Weber confirmed that customers were allowed to enter dining rooms to pick up take-out orders.

“I have confirmed with the Alabama Department of Public Health, which wrote the order, that ‘take-out’ means that customers may physically enter a restaurant to retrieve an order, so long as social distancing protocols outlined in the order are followed,” Weber said in the email.

According to Bowline, the SPD and Chief Kenta Fulford were simply acting on guidance that they received from the law enforcement wing of the Attorney General’s COVID-19 task force.

“The chief was just exercising what he received,” Bowline said. “He didn’t have anything in writing, so it wasn’t until [Wednesday] morning that I could get something in writing.”

Additionally, Bowline noted that the SPD originally visited the eateries because of a citizen’s complaint.

With the latest opinion, local restaurants are clear to allow customers to enter the building to acquire their orders, a move Bowline acknowledges the restaurant industry needs right now.

“As a city councilman, my job is to fight for the small businesses in this community, because I represent the City of Selma,” Bowline said. “It’s tough enough to make a living in COVID-19 land and restaurants have taken it harder than most.”