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At the ready — Cape restaurants reopen

By Staff | May 6, 2020

After over a month of having to close their doors to the public, restaurants across the state, including in Cape Coral, have reopened but at a limited capacity.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order, or “Phase 1: Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step” plan for Florida’s recovery amidst COVID-19, went into effect Monday. This order allows retail and restaurants to open at 25 percent occupancy.

This new order does not extend to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have had the highest numbers of coronavirus patients in the state.

“The only thing we have to fear is letting fear overwhelm our sense of purpose and determination,” DeSantis said at a press conference announcing the Executive Order last Wednes-day.

Cape Coral restaurants were once again seating residents Monday, taking precautions for potential virus transmission utilizing social distancing and extreme sanitary standards.

Despite public opinion on whether the reopening is occurring too soon, the local businesses and their employees impacted by the closures will certainly get an economic jolt to the arm.

“Yesterday was a tremendous success,” said Pat Krieg, owner of Cape Coral’s Fish Tale Grill by Merrick Seafood. “It was an opportunity for us to bring back a bunch of our employees and the locals came out and supported us as much as we could seat them, which was great.”

Fish Tale Grill on Southeast 47th Terrace was back to serving up its fresh seafood dishes to patrons inside and outside on the restaurant’s two large decks.

“The customers were just thrilled to be back out of the house, it felt like,” Krieg said. “From the time we opened to the time we closed, it was heartwarming excitement to say the least.”

Inside, Krieg said the restaurant can hold about 25 people maximum, and roughly 60 between the two decks depending on party size and being able to maintain social distancing standards.

He said the restaurant is doing all it can to ensure the safety of its employees who are screened for symptoms every day when they come in and the customers.

“We’re taking extreme measures when it comes to sanitizing,” Krieg said. “Educational training for the staff constantly wiping down the laminated lunch menus, hand sanitizing stations everywhere. The customers are adhering to our recommendations. We’re wiping down everything as much as possible. It seems to be well received by the customers.”

Employees are not required to wear masks — it is their choice, said Krieg, who is happy to be able to return people he considers “family” back to work.

“They were thrilled to get back to work,” he said. “They’re family to us, so it was great having them back,”

The governor’s order will also help ease the economic strain the virus has caused by generating more income for a business that has — as nearly every business across America has — taken a hit from the pandemic.

“Every little bit helps,” Krieg said. “For those restaurants that aren’t fortunate enough to have outdoor spaces, it’s kind of a difficult percentage. Hopefully the numbers stay down and the governor will deem (Phase 2) appropriate sooner rather than later.”

Another Cape Coral establishment, Nevermind Awesome Bar & Eatery, once again was allowed to let patrons through its doors to sit and dine.

“It was a pretty smooth ride yesterday for the most part,” said owner Shannon Yates.

He said his take-out service was still just as busy as it was before, hinting that maybe people are taking things a little slow before rushing out of their homes all at once.

Nevermind marked off certain tables that patrons couldn’t use by having the chairs turned over on them. Hostesses assigned guests to tables while keeping social distancing between parties.

Yates is making sure those who come in before 9 p.m. really want to be there to dine if they are to be inside.

“During the main time, (the dining room) is there for people who actually want to sit down and eat not drink,” he said.

Staff at Nevermind is being thoroughly educated on safe practices to keep patrons in as cleanly an environment as possible.

“It starts with the staff and it ends with the staff,” Yates said. “They’ve got to be effective; very clean around the tables, especially when guests are seated, washing their hands 50 times a day, or more.”

It is up to Nevermind employees if they wish to wear a mask, or not, said Yates.

The facility is divided into three different “bars.” Yates said there were no more than 14 people in one location at one time.

“It was kind of nice. I don’t want people to be jammed in here right now, at all.” Yates said. “The patios were pretty full.”

Nevermind put two tents outside, per state allowance, and tented the parking lot for “social overflow.”

Yates was happy to welcome back employees who were not able to work and said he will be looking to hire about 10 new employees this week.

While it helps to be able to have the public walk through the doors again, the effects of the coronavirus on businesses are hard. Nevermind is still waiting for its government relief as well.

Nevermind Awesome Bar & Eatery is at 927 Cape Coral Parkway. Visit its Facebook page for more information.

Fish Tale Grill by Merrick Seafood is at 1229 S.E. 47th Terrace. Visit www.fishtalegrill.com for more information.

– Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj