Florida governor Ron DeSantis on Friday announced an immediate implementation of phase three, the final step of the state’s reopening plan.
As part of that plan, restaurants and bars may now operate at full, pre-pandemic occupancy levels. In addition, DeSantis declared that cities or counties would be prohibited from superseding the state’s directive to establish their own lower-capacity mandates. He also said he would hold in abeyance any fines that local municipalities had levied for pandemic-related violations, including mask requirements.
Speaking in St. Petersburg, the governor acknowledged that the pandemic was not over and that increased case levels were still possible. But he rejected any notion that the state would shut down again should a surge occur.
In the document from the Re-open Florida Task Force, phase 3 guidelines state, “Restaurants and food service establishments may operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols,” though the document does not seem to define limited social distancing protocols.
It also states: “Businesses should maintain adequate sanitation practices among employees and patrons during all hours of operation. Menus, if laminated, should continue to be cleaned after each usage. Paper menus shall be designed for single use and then disposed of immediately after use.”
Adequate sanitation practices is such a comforting phrase.
The original phase three guidelines were to move restaurants to 75 percent capacity from phase two’s 50 percent.
Greg Richie, chef/partner of Soco in Thornton Park, said that it would take a few days to reinstall tables and chairs that were removed to facilitate required distancing. He said in a text message Friday afternoon, “We may gradually ease into it, say 75% at first at see how it goes.”
Greg Allowe of Delaney’s Tavern said that he would immediately go to full capacity and is already maxed out through Saturday because of the draw of Magical Dining. “I’ve been hiring and training new staff as I write this,” he said in a message.
What about some of you other restaurateurs: Do you plan to immediately move to full capacity?
And diners: Do you feel comfortable returning to inside dining at a potentially full restaurant?
Let me know in the comments below.