Not Quite Back To Normal, But...
The Rules As restaurants open back up and expand their seating in response to Governor DeSantis’s latest executive order, customers might be understandably confused about what regulations are mandated and what are suggested protocols. As of publication date, this is where we stand in Charlotte and Sarasota County.
Restaurant seating may be up to 50% capacity indoors, including the bar area, but bar counters remain closed. Capacity outdoor seating is allowed and all seating must follow social distancing of 6’ between parties. That means that as long as tables are 6’ apart, outdoor areas can seat as many customers as accommodations allow.
While servers are not required to wear masks, many owners are following the recommendation of The Centers for Disease Control and having their staff wear masks to protect coworkers, the general public and themselves. However, not all diners seem to want their servers to wear masks. Prime Time Steak and Spirits even asked customers to chime in on the mask debate on its Facebook page. The simple solution, if it matters to you either way, call the restaurant and ask, and then respect the decision of the restaurant owner.
So, how are our restaurants facing these challenges as they welcome back diners? Because of reduced capacity, many restaurants that would never require or suggest a reservation this time of year are taking reservations for lunch and dinner. Nicola’s Italian Restaurant provides a running count of weekend reservations and availability on its Facebook page, so diners know the time and space available. Jill Hemnes, co-owner of The Waverly Restaurant and Bar, said she recommends reservations, especially if diners want the best chance at a window seat overlooking the Gulf. Hemnes also says that they are keeping the downstairs bar area open “until the last customers leave.”
Not all restaurants rushed to reopen the minute they could. The owners of Ephesus Mediterranean Grill held off reopening until June 9 with a socially distanced and sanitized dining room and patio. “Everyone says they’re glad we are back and open for business and we are very glad to be back,” said co-owner Michelle Cakir.
Many restaurant owners who have been open have responded to the ever-changing COVID climate. Farlow’s On The Water installed clear safety partitions to provide diners more protection, all the staff wear masks and gloves and the restaurant offers touchless curbside pick-up and delivery. Marie LaForge, co-owner of Mango Bistro, said they have extended their patio to add more space and are also adding a juice bar and more plant-based items to
Restaurants including Spinnaker Cafe, Wink’s Old Town Grill, Isabella’s Bistro and Rotonda Golf and Country Club are posting their daily specials, photos and menus on Facebook. The social media platform is also where places like Lighthouse Grill at Stump Pass and White Elephant keep their customers updated on entertainment.
Most, but not all restaurants, have maintained take-out, curbside pick-up and in some cases, delivery services. Of course, by the time you read this, things may once again change. EnglewoodTakeout.com, a service of the Englewood Florida Chamber of Commerce, remains an excellent first stop for checking out local restaurants’ hours and offerings.
Of course, during the summer, the area’s restaurants would normally see a drop in tourism, but in the current climate, it is even more pronounced, making community support more crucial to the survival of local eateries. Hemnes says that she appreciates the “immense support” of her local customers, whether they are ordering take-out online or dining inside The Waverly.
Joe Reichard, managing partner at the Lighthouse Grill, has some very encouraging news, saying that his restaurant’s numbers are higher than this time last year. With only outdoor seating, all tables are six-feet apart, and entertainment continues six days a week. And what about dancing? Reichard says couples and groups do need to stay 6’ apart from others, but they’re also encouraging “chair dancing,” where if you feel beat, just dance in your seat.
New Bakery Opens
You might know Stephanie Brocardi from the Englewood and other farmers markets, where she sells sweet and savory pies, pastries and quiches. With the markets closed since March, Brocardi and her treats were homeless until May 31 when she opened Sassy Tarts at 5855 Placida Road.
Brocardi said she works with her family at the shop which opens at 7 am and stays open until 6 pm, specifically, says Brocardi, to accommodate full-time workers.
At Sassy Tarts you will find freshly baked danish, turnovers, sticky buns, croissants, quiche and more. “Our offerings change all the time based on what fruits I have and what specialty orders have come in,” said Brocardi.
Sassy Tarts does not have curbside pick-up and while the staff is not wearing masks they have them available and will wear them if requested. Brocardi says that when the markets do reopen, Sassy Tarts will be there, but for now, she is enjoying her new home. “We couldn’t have picked a better community to settle in!”
If you have restaurant news, specials or information to share, email Sharyn Lonsdale at firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line DISH.