by Sharyn Lonsdale
State Moves on to PHASE 3 and More
On September 26, Governor Ron DeSantis declared that Florida would be moving on to Phase 3 of reopening the state after the COVID-19 crisis. What does that mean for restaurants and their customers?
Restaurants and bars that had been operating at 50% capacity with social distancing guidelines are now allowed to operate at full capacity. Businesses can still require customers to wear masks, but DeSantis said, “all outstanding fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals are suspended.”
While many restaurants will take advantage of the ruling, others are hesitating to embrace Phase 3, as are some diners. Some good news, the ruling does allow many restaurants to move part-time employees back to full-time and hire more staff.
The announcement on Facebook that Lock N’ Key and sister restaurant the SandBar Tiki & Grille would be operating at full-capacity while maintaining strict sanitization policies, was met with plenty of customer love. Staff will continue to wear face coverings at both locations. Fans of the Lock ‘N Key are also celebrating the return of its popular happy hour. Both restaurants offer large outdoor seating areas.
Farlow’s on the Water promises that the Phase 3 dining experience will be just like Phase 2 except it will allow the reopening of some indoor tables. On its Facebook page, Farlow’s vows to continue to maintain social distancing, keeping partitions in place, and to follow CDC recommendations, including keeping disposable menus, and having staff wear masks. The restaurant will also maintain strict sanitization procedures and will continue to take reservations, and also has plenty of outdoor seating.
Over at Prime Time, the restaurant is back open at 100%, however, one area will remain available for diners who want to social distance. Diners who prefer that room will need to ask to sit there. Staff will continue to wear masks and guests are requested to also wear face coverings in common areas in the restaurant. Parties of five or more can reserve regular or socially-distanced dining in advance. Outdoor dining is
Marie Laforge said even though it would mean more revenue, she’s passing on moving Mango Bistro on to Phase 3. The Dearborn Street eatery will remain at 50% capacity with social distancing and continue to offer take-out and delivery. The restaurant expanded its outdoor dining area, added Laforge, “We also are all wearing masks and are asking our customers to do the same. We feel obliged to keep our employees and their families safe.”
That’s good news for patrons like Diana Legg who said she plans to stay with restaurants who are “still following safety measures” and Kama Strombeck who when not eating at home, prefers take-out or dining at off-hours to avoid crowds. “We love all the area restaurants and want them to do well, but not at the risk of getting sick,” said Strombeck.
They may want to join Tammy McShane’s new Facebook group “COVID Responsible Restaurants and Businesses in Englewood and Surroundings.” McShane, who lives in North Port, started the group to offer one page with current information on restaurants and businesses from Sarasota to Punta Gorda. “Not that one choice is better than another, but there are a lot of people who aren’t ready to jump into a restaurant that is wall-to-wall people where you don’t have to wear masks,” said McShane.” She is requesting that group members share their experiences but keep politics off the page. She also encourages restaurant owners to share what they are doing to offer customers a safe environment, even if they are moving on to Phase 3.
Only you know how comfortable you are when dining out. For the most up-to-date information, call the restaurant to see your options and if possible, reserve your preferred seating area.
After a six-month COVID-19 shutdown, Zeke’s Uptown Bar & Grill on West Dearborn Street, finally reopened on September 23 for breakfast and lunch, Wednesday through Monday, with expanded outdoor seating, indoor dining improvement and most of its original staff. At press time Zeke’s was planning to open for dinner again soon. The new menu features old favorites and new items, including
“immunity-boosting COVID-19 Cocktails spiked with quinine and zinc.”
Let’s Eat! Englewoodis a great success!
Englewood’s annual restaurant promotion event, Let’s Eat! Englewood, just concluded on October 1, although many participating restaurants continued to offer the special $13 lunch and $26 dinner menus beyond that date. “This year the campaign was needed more than ever,” said Kim Parks, Interim Director of the Englewood Florida Chamber of Commerce. “The fact that most offered carry-out, curbside and/or delivery added to the “Let’s Eat” experience.” Parks said that while the final numbers weren’t in yet, she expected Let’s Eat-Englewood to generate more than $100,000 in added business.