Businesses adapt, close as coronavirus changes daily life in Poncey-Highland

Videodrome is renting movies from its front door in Poncey-Highland.

The Poncey-Highland neighborhood has been embroiled in a months’ long debate on whether or not it should become a historic district to protect its old homes and structures. Those concerns are temporarily on hold as the community adapts to the coronavirus (COVID=19) pandemic. The close-knit community is a microcosm of how Intown continues to navigate what is, hopefully, a temporary “new normal” for its local businesses and restaurants.

At the corner of N. Highland and North avenues, Videodrome, the last video rental store in the city, has a table at its front door and is offering drive-up movies. All you have to do is email or call ahead and the movie of your choice will be waiting for pickup.

Across the intersection, newly-opened Elemental Spirits has its doors open in the warm spring weather, but only 10 people at a time are allowed into the airy, light-filled shop. New rules include don’t touch anything you don’t plan to buy and customers are encouraged to email or message on Instagram and place an order for pickup.

Along N. HIghland,  Soul Vegetarian and Sweet Auburn BBQ have closed their dining rooms but are offering curb pickup. Over at JavaVino, it’s a “no-touch pick-up your takeout coffee, wine, beer, food to-go serious environment.” They’ll even deliver bottles of wine to your home if you live nearby.

Publix on Ponce is keeping its shelves reasonably stocked, but there was still no toilet paper on Sunday afternoon.

While these businesses have adapted to the COVID-19 crisis, others have not. Poncey-Highland is home to a number of dining institutions that have shut their doors, including Manuel’s Tavern, Babette’s Cafe and The Majestic Diner.

Self-proclaimed dive bar The Righteous Room has started a GoFundMe account to help its staff survive. Next door, historic Plaza Theatre also has a GoFundMe after the city ordered the closure of cinemas, restaurants, bars, gyms and other gathering places to stop the spread of the virus. On Sunday afternoon, Plaza Theatre staff was selling beer and goodies from its back parking lot thanks to the city relaxing the sell of beer and wine to go.

Annie Kinnett Nichols, a longtime Poncey-Highland resident and INtown contributor, said the neighborhood has been following the direction to stay at home.

“I think the residents are taking self-quarantining pretty seriously,” she said. “I walk my dog, so I see what’s up daily. The weather has been nice, so lots of people are working in their yard. Traffic is down to a minimum.”

However, Nichols is concerned that more people need to take coronavirus seriously. “The BeltLine and Piedmont Park seem to be full of people in denial,” she said. “There are big groups of people, joggers running in groups. That’s not social distancing.”

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