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Restaurants, bars begin to deal with state-imposed restrictions

By Staff | Mar 19, 2020

If you were to walk into a restaurant today, things might seem a little different.

Tables spaced out, a scarce crowd — missing the humming of the hustle and bustle of patrons unwinding after a long day and staff maneuvering through a crowded dining room floor.

The spread of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, has caused Gov. Ron DeSantis to put restrictions on restaurants and shut down bars and nightclubs, or establishments that mostly serve alcoholic beverages, for 30 days. The executive order, ironically enough, came into effect on March 17, one of the popular party holidays of the year.

Restaurants across the state of Florida are now be required to limit customer entry to 50 percent of capacity. Seating must be staggered and limited to ensure seated parties are separated by a distance of at least six feet, in accordance with CDC guidelines. Restaurants are encouraged to remain open and expand take-out and delivery services.

“Sales are down, obviously, because people are scared,” said Joshua Eisenman, general manager of Texas Tony’s in Cape Coral.

While restaurants are still open, many have seen a decline in sales not only due to just fear, but that they are only allowed to fill their establishments to half-capacity.

Eisenman said sales have been about roughly 50 percent down in recent times.

Local eateries are also doing their best to provide a sanitary environment for patrons in a challenging climate.

“We’re doing a lot to keep customers and staff safe,” Eisenman said. “We have extra sanitizing procedures on an hour-by-hour basis. We’re cleaning the restrooms, all of the door handles — if a guest walks in we clean the door handle. Menus are being wiped down after every use by a guest. The table is being completely sanitized from top to bottom, including the sauce bottles and condiments — whatever is on the table. We’re washing our hands on a very frequent basis and sitting guests six feet apart, making sure guests have a comfortable distance.”

Eisenman encourages the public to still support local businesses and restaurants at this time, even if you just pickup a takeout order.

“We’re just trying to do our part to make people feel comfortable enough to come out to eat,” Eisenman said. “Definitely come on out and we’ll take every precaution to make sure that you’re safe.”

Big Storm Brewing Co. in Cape Coral had to close its doors to the public for the time being, but those who love their beer can still pick up packaged brews at the taproom to take home.

While Big Storm has two other locations in Florida that have full food services and will remain open with the aforementioned restrictions, President LJ Govoni is looking to work with local businesses in the Cape to partner and give a boost to during this trying time.

“This week has not been particularly fun,” Govoni said. “If we were solely based in Cape Coral, this could have been a much worse scenario. Right now, we’re worried about everyone else.”

Big Storm in the Cape will be open from 4-8 p.m. for to-go pickup orders of their packages beer only. Employees will still be doing their due diligence to keep a clean workspace.

“We take our sanitation environment very seriously,” Govoni said.

Big Storm is also having full-time employees take up work in other areas of the company, and are looking into different ventures during this time such as partering with a local food truck.

“We want to keep our team in-tact,” Govoni said. “We intend to work with others in the community. We’re all in this together.”

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj