Gov. DeSantis takes stock of COVID-19's effect on Tampa Bay businesses

When will work from home end? How long until cruise ships set sail from our port? 

These are the questions many want answered. And today, Governor Ron DeSantis asked them of Tampa Bay leaders.

The governor was in Tampa at Port Tampa Bay for a business roundtable, where the topic of cruise ships came up. DeSantis asked Raul Alfonso, Port Tampa Bay’s executive vice president, what the prognosis was. 

“Maybe 50-, 60-percent capacity, and we are a good port for that,” said Alfonso. “We’re hoping that it starts in the winter, maybe the spring. But there are no definite dates.”

Tampa Chamber head Bob Rohrlack explained many businesses are sticking with work-from-home for now.

“Some of the bigger companies are saying they’ll be staying at home until the turn of the year,” Rohrlack said. “Smaller businesses are looking at more of the hybrid, how can they have different shifts come in, if not, have everyone come in if it works and they can space out properly.”

A recent report showed between March 1 and July 10, the Tampa Bay metro area lost more than 1,200 establishments.

Zach Feinstein, owner of Dunedin’s Black Pearl restaurant, adapted to avoid closure.

“We definitely had to re-invent our business model, obviously,” he said. “We’ve really taken a step above for the PPE for the staff, and getting our cooks used to wearing a mask in a 110-degree kitchen.”

A shiny silver lining? Rohrlack says Tampa real estate is booming.

“Realtors are telling us people are buying houses sight-unseen, wanting to move from other parts of the country to be here, which is amazing,” Rohrlack said. “That is impacting all of the market, as services are needed to reflect that. So it’s not where any of us want to be, but we’re moving in that right direction.”