How malls in Florida plan to reopen with limited capacity

Come Monday, retailers across Florida will slowly reopen their business. But that doesn’t mean the same goes for all malls.

“There is pretty much panic and, let’s just say, a general disorganization within many retailers right now,” said Dr. Larry Barton, a UCF professor who specializes in public safety and crisis management. 

He believes getting malls back to 100% will take quite some time. 

“The supply chain, security issues, the logistics of reopening, not knowing if your employees will even be there when you ask them to come back on Monday, has just created a sense of disorganization.” 

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Governor Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that come Monday, retailers, including malls, can reopen at 25-percent capacity.

In our area, Simon properties will reopen Monday, including the Premium Outlets in Tampa and Ellenton, and Tyrone Square Mall.

However, they’re implementing changes, such as limited food court spacing, while play areas and stroller stations will remain closed. Also, tenants will be responsible for monitoring occupancies. 

The company says it will use existing traffic measurement technologies to make sure property occupancy does not exceed a targeted level of 1 person per 50 square feet of space. 

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Taubman, which manages Tampa’s International Plaza and Sarasota’s Mall at University Town Center, says those malls will re-open Wednesday, May 6 at 11 a.m.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Mall at University Town Center said their play areas will be closed, drinking fountains will be turned off, and seating areas in common spaces will be reset to allow for social distancing. 

The Florida Retail Federation says the pandemic has been devastating for the state’s 270,000 stores.

“One in five jobs in the state of Florida is related to retail, so it’s been devastating,” said CEO Scott Shalley. 

For Barton, the recovery in malls will begin with the anchor stores.

“Looking at the biggest stores, and making sure that everything is going well there,” he added. “It’s where you’re going to have a lot of foot traffic, and where you as consumers will say, ‘’I had a really good experience.”

Because that good experience could bring Florida closer to phase two.