The first phases of his "Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step" plan include reopening retail establishments at 25 percent capacity and restaurants with socially distanced outdoor seating. Gatherings of 10 or more people are still strongly discouraged.
Even with these newly relaxed guidelines, announced on a day coronavirus cases in Florida surge past 33,000, bars and nightlife spots are still effectively prohibited from reopening.
Orlando Weekly spoke to local bar owners and employees who all agreed with this decision, preferring a cautious approach with more testing and curve-flattening before business tries to reopen as usual. Even with the continued loss of income weighing more heavily on their minds by the day.
"I have been working on updates to the bar with our customers' and employees' welfare in mind. I have been mentally preparing for an open date of June 1, but the hard part for planning is having no re-open date at all. I feel confident that when we do reopen that our customers will feel at ease in our space based on our attention to their safety. Oh and one more thing, DeSantis needs to fix the fucking unemployment system now!"
Hanna Atwood, a longtime bartender at the Falcon, isn't feeling all that optimistic about the policies put forth by state leaders. "My gut reaction when I heard that Florida was ready to reopen businesses in phases at all was that it’s just too soon," said Atwood. "We haven’t been equipped with accurate figures on real cases due to the lack of testing, and now there’s the news of medical examiner data suppression, and we just don’t fully know what we’re up against."
"As for bars being left out of phase one, I think it’s the right move. At the Falcon, we were implementing safety and sanitization measures before the closure mandates, and I know we’re going to do everything possible to make people feel safe when the time comes to resume business. When the decision is made for us to reopen, I know I’ll be able to return to work with confidence."
"The really unfortunate thing about bars being left out of this first phase of reopening is the financial impact it is having on employees and small business owners alike. Hospitality workers were among the first people to experience lost wages due to COVID-19 closures and are part of the population being denied most frequently for unemployment benefits and pandemic relief. The system designed to help is broken with no remedy in sight and not having a definitive timeline for when things will turn around is stressful. However, we’ll be ready with hand sanitizer in hand and masks on our faces, or whatever distancing measures the situation dictates when the time comes to be operational again."
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