Briarpatch restaurant in Winter Park, as photographed in December 2019. Credit: U+1F360 via Wikimedia Commons
Gov. Ron DeSantis hinted Thursday that increasing restaurant capacity for indoor dining may happen soon, though no definitive plans have been announced.
Restaurants are still considered at 50 percent capacity indoors — which DeSantis considers arbitrary. It also means a loss of revenues and furloughs or layoffs of staff. Outdoor dining remains.
At the same time, some restaurants in Florida are struggling to hire new workers, because risks associated with COVID-19 are too great to return to the hospitality industry.
DeSantis, Halsey Beshears, the head of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and restaurateurs spoke during a roundtable discussion on how Florida’s restaurants have been faring during the COVID-19 pendemic.
Owners of local restaurants and large chains have had to make various changes to their businesses in order to comply with state expectations and safety measures during the pandemic.
Much of the conversation revolved around the difficulties of keeping fully staffed restaurants open, and creating enough profit to function while complying with 50 percent capacity.
But DeSantis said that the 50 percent capacity restriction is arbitrary and believes that restaurants and customers will be able to use common sense when approaching how to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think a lot of the restaurants are going to be able to make sense of some of this stuff as we look to have more capacity,” DeSantis said. “I think that we’re getting to a situation where people are starting to feel a little more comfortable — at least, I hope so.”
The speakers at the roundtable discussion reported that they were seeing various amounts of success while surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have returned to full employment, and some are counting on higher restaurant capacity to bring on more employees and fulltime hours.
The roundtable discussion didn’t get into whether expanded capacity might be 75 percent or even 100 percent.
At the Thursday roundtable, Paul Avery, CEO of World of Beer, said, “I would see that the relief from the 50 percent would be an amazing and important indication to the public that it’s okay to go out.” He added, “and then they would need to count on us — which they can — to provide a safe environment for them all the way around.”
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