Some SWFL businesses can reopen while others have to remain shuttered
For more than a month, Southwest Florida restaurants have been relying on delivery and takeout orders – if they could afford to stay open at all.
There is finally some hope on the horizon after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that restaurants will be allowed to reopen, albeit at a smaller capacity.
Part of the governor’s phase one plan is letting restaurants open outdoor seating – as long as tables are six feet apart – and indoor seating will be able to operate at 25 percent capacity.
PDF DOWNLOAD: Gov. DeSantis’ executive order outlining phase one
Business owners across the area listened in to find out if they would be able to reopen. Not everyone was satisfied with the outcome.
“It was a big shock actually. We were all kind of hoping everything was going to be opening up,” said Cody Graffice, owner of CrossFit Fireball.
Graffice is one of many gym owners forced to keep their businesses closed. Bars, pubs and nightclubs also won’t be allowed to reopen.
Along with restaurants, retailers can reopen – but they’ll also have to operate at only 25 percent capacity.
Doug Miller and Amy Eldridge, owners of F-K Your Diet Restaurant in south Lee County, said it’s a step forward, but it puts businesses in a bind when it comes to letting customers in.
“We’re going to have to tell them ‘I’m sorry, you can’t be here.’ What happens if a family of seven comes in and you have only got three seats?” Miller asked.
“Don’t put us in a position to be the police of it,” Miller said.
But managing customers’ expectations isn’t even an option for gym owners like Graffice.
“Micro-gyms can do small classes, that can do personal training, that could definitely get social distancing in there, and still be able to be open, to stay afloat,” he said.
“People are putting their memberships on hold but rent is still due. It takes a hurt on us pretty bad.”
Hair salons and barbershops also can’t reopen.
“We’re all disappointed about it but in the end, I think we understand,” said John Weiland, owner/operator of Gene and Gerald’s Barber Shop.
He said they’ll at least get to learn from how other businesses managed the soft open under new circumstances.
“We just have to kind of idly sit back and hope that we’re part of phase two,” he said.
When phase two will happen isn’t known right now. The governor said that will depend on medical data.
Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are excluded from the governor’s first phase because of their high case numbers.
Rep. Greg Steube said he fears people from outside Southwest Florida will flock to our area.
“I think you’ll see people in neighboring counties come to other counties that are starting to open up things they can go to, especially retail.”
Restaurants recommend calling ahead before going to make sure they chose to reopen and can serve you under their capacity limits.