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Some SWFL bars say they need more prep time before reopening

Bars throughout Florida are allowed to open as long as it’s at 50% capacity, with no dancing or mingling among tables.

While some Southwest Florida bars are waiting to reopen because they need more time to prepare for customers during the pandemic, some bar owners said the notice couldn’t have come sooner.

“It’s a great feeling being back behind this bar,” said Russ Bellerose, the owner of Bar 17 in Charlotte County.

Bellerose said he had a hunch he could turn the light back on, so he’s slowly prepared to let people back in.

“This is a lot of people’s home bar,” Bellerose said. “When people come in here, I welcome them home. And a lot of people just stopped by today.”

Current restrictions only allow for Bellerose to have eight patrons in his bar at a time.

“I’m happy,” Bellerose said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

But one of the owners of Palace Pub and Wine Bar in Cape Coral says five days was not enough notice to reopen.

Ryan Lay was cleaning, restocking and unpacking on Monday so his place could be ready for reopening.

“We want to be comfortable ourselves after being away for so long,” Lay said.

Both Lay and Bellerose explained they are being very cautious with reopening. They felt the excitement before in June when they were able to open but then had to shut down shortly after. This time, they hope everyone stays safe and COVID-19 cases keep trending down so they can stay open.

Lay and company want to ensure they can be open for a long time.

“We kind of feel like we’re at the end of the tunnel, and we can hopefully just go up from here,” Lay said.

Reporter:Andryanna Sheppard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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