Southwest Florida is now in “full phase one” reopening, which means restaurants can increase capacity to 50 percent with social distancing still in place. Even so, business owners say the move could save them.
For the last couple of months, stacks of chairs and empty tables were the norm at Wise Guys Deli in downtown Fort Myers. Slowly, customers are coming back in.
Owner Martin Drexler said he could barely scrape by at 25 percent capacity.
“You can’t really make it on 25 percent. You still need your pick-up and takeout and delivery business fully,” he said.
A small business loan from the City of Fort Myers also helped keep his doors open.
“I’ve got enough business to where I’m just managing to make it. Barely make it.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday announced restaurants can increase capacity to 50 percent, which is better news for owners like Drexler.
“But we really need it back to full capacity as soon as possible for anybody that’s in a small business to make it.”
At Steve’s Waterfront Cafe right down the road, owner Steve Bretner said he survived because he runs a tiny business with just two employees.
“Good to hear that we’re going to 50 percent capacity now, so that’s a big plus. But it’d be good to get business rolling and going again like it was just a couple of months ago.”
Diner Michael Savas said he has adapted to eating at home, but he’s excited to hear more people are being allowed to dine in.
“I have figured that my girlfriend can cook, so maybe we’ll eat in more but I am excited for these restaurants to start opening back up because we do like to eat out.”
Drexler said he believes it will take a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19 for business to return to pre-pandemic levels.