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Lee County restaurants take advantage of first day at 25% capacity

Excited, nervous, relieved, those are the range of emotions restaurant owners in Lee County said they felt on the first day of reopening.

People in the region were already taking advantage of the rollback on some restrictions during the first phase of reopening in the state Monday. And restaurants were ready to adapt to the new normal.

A sunny day in Cape Coral calls for lunch on the patio.

“I got the ginger tuna salad,” Ed Ramos said.

Ramos went to Fish Tale Grill to support his favorite afternoon spot on their big reopening Monday.

“All of our regulars are coming out to support us,” said Kerry Krieg with Fish Tale Grill. “So it feels really good. And to see my staff back together here, it’s really cool.

Restaurants across Southwest Florida are adapting to operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everything we do will be sanitized in front of the customers before they get it, just to give them that extra blanket of security,” said Nicole Isner with Rusty’s Raw Bar and Grill in Cape Coral.

From extra sanitizing stations to menus customers can access on their smart phones, restaurants are working to ensure optimal safety for customers during phase one of reopening the state.

Employees at Rusty’s will have their temperatures taken before each shift. Other restaurants in the region are having their employees suit up in masks and gloves.

“We want to make sure everyone is comfortable,” said Franco Russo with Two Meatballs in the Kitchen in south Fort Myers. “Not only customers, but also our employees. Look, it might take time for people to come back in, and people are afraid, and we get that.”

All the restaurant owners we spoke to admit the current rule of 25% capacity at businesses makes it tough. And many businesses did not reopen out of fear they wouldn’t make money, so they’re anxious for the governor to move Florida from the first phase to phase two, when restaurants can operate at 75% capacity.

The indoor seating capacity is forcing some restaurants to get creative. Two Meatballs in the Kitchen turned part of its parking lot into outdoor seating. All restaurant owners are asking for customers’ patience and business.

“Anyone going to a restaurant, just try to be kind and be understanding,” Krieg said. “We’re doing our best.”

Reporter:Taylor Petras
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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