TAMPA, Fla. - Restaurants in Florida have adapted to new challenges every day this week, and now they shift to takeout and delivery service only.
Restaurants in Florida have been ordered to close for dine-in customers, according to an order from Governor Ron DeSantis Friday. The new rules expand on a previous executive order put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Food can still be ordered to-go -- as well as alcoholic beverages, according to the order.
Executive Order 20-71 directs "all restaurants and food establishments within the State of Florida to suspend on-premises food and alcohol consumption for customers. The listed establishments may, however, operate their kitchens for the purpose of providing delivery or take-out services."
The order also lifts the restriction on restaurants from selling alcohol for consumption off-premises. According to the new order, the alcohol must be in a "sealed container" and must be accompanied by the sale of food in the same order. Proof of identity and age will also be required.
The order lifts the restriction on restaurants from selling alcohol for consumption off-premises. According to the new order, the alcohol must be in a "sealed container" and must be accompanied by the sale of food in the same order. Proof of identity and age will also be required.
As for the bars that stocked up for St. Patrick’s Day, DeSantis said he will allow bars to sell back their inventory.
The new rules will last through the expiration of the state of emergency, which was set for April 8, 2020, but could be extended.
Earlier this week, restaurants were reducing capacity by 50 percent, increasing sanitation efforts and practicing social distancing by order of the state.
“A vast majority of restaurants did it. They abided by the restrictions. Some didn’t, and it’s just the type of thing that we don’t have time to police that. So, we’re going to take out and deliver only,” said DeSantis.
It’s another change that’s hard on places trying to keep employees working.
“Right now, we’re looking at 80 percent, 80 percent take out right now,” said George Fotopoulos, the owner of ABC Pizza in Tampa. “We’re blessed that at least we have the takeout, that’s one thing. But it’s hard for my servers, my dishwashers, my bussers. They’re the ones that are depending on the dine-in.”
For Bruno Falkenstein, he depends on beach foot traffic.
“Last weekend was the best weekend we’ve had in four years. It’s all gone now,” he said.
As general manager of Hurricane Seafood Restaurant in Pass-A-Grille, Falkenstein said the impact is harsher on a barrier island.
“All I can hope for is that people from in-town St. Pete come out to the beach and get carryout from the restaurants here, so we can survive,” said Falkenstein.
So, while they can still operate, Falkenstein put up signs for online orders.
Restaurant owners want customers to know they are still in business despite the closed dining rooms.
“We’re still going to be available to the public. I know everybody’s worried about food storage, but we have our suppliers onboard,” said Fotopoulos. “Whenever we need product and everything, they will deliver to us at any time.”
It’s a tough change, but one owners understand is for the greater health of the community.
“It may hurt us financially for a little while. It’s better to hurt us a little bit financially than it is to have a bunch of sick people here,” said Falkenstein.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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