RESTAURANTS AND BARS
RESTAURANTS BALANCE REOPENINGS WITH
EVER CHANGING COVID-19 GUIDELINES
When non-essential businesses were ordered closed in March, some restaurants like Vero’s Ocean Grill were able to switch to take-out and/or delivery.
The coronavirus pandemic didn’t take
away our love of food but it did challenge
our access to the food we love.
As Florida relaxed its stay-at-home
guidelines, we yearned for the luxury of
once again dining at our favorite restaurants
— a good thing. According to the
National Restaurant Association, “The
restaurant industry, more than any other
industry in the nation, has suffered the
most significant sales and job losses since
the COVID-19 outbreak began.”
It’s been a roller coaster ride. Restaurants,
bars and beaches were closed in
March with partial reopenings in May.
By June, bars were closed again along
with some beaches. Some counties made
masks mandatory in public. Enforcement
has been inconsistent — one restaurant
might ask that customers wear masks
in line or going to the rest room while
another might refuse service to someone
without a mask altogether.
THE ULTIMATE SHUTDOWN
Some restaurants couldn’t weather the
financial storm. Vero’s new downtown
restaurant Prima Pizza and Pasta got rave
reviews, doing well until the shutdown.
Takeout and delivery alone failed to keep
“In the six months we were open, we
didn’t have time to build an established
clientele,” owner Glenn Pacicca says.
He put the restaurant on the market in
March. “It’s a big disappointment,” he says.
While others on the Treasure Coast have
closed as well, many restaurants are thriving
ADAPTING TO CHANGE
In the COVID-19 cloud, one silver lining
might be deeper respect and appreciation
for professions patrons have tended
to take for granted. As one server said, “It’s
twice the work for half the customers.”
Millions of restaurant workers nationwide
were furloughed or laid off in March,
with some fired outright. But Jensen
Beach’s Castaways Gastropub didn’t lose
a single employee, says general manager
Dylan Brooker. Three workers self-quarantined
by choice. It ran skeleton crews with
St. Lucie Draft House opted to handle
deliveries in-house, giving employees
more hours. Even though 2nd Street Bistro
in Fort Pierce uses a third-party service,
BiteSquad, it was able to retain its workers.
“Our employees were eager to return to
work,” says Susan Horton of Luna Italian
Cuisine in downtown Stuart. With only
half the dining room open, however, the
amount of business is balanced with the
necessity of staff numbers. Horton says
their takeout window stayed busy seven
days a week.
At the time of the March shutdown,
Vero’s Ocean Grill had 145 employees.
Owner Charley Replogle laid off 125, keeping
the 20 kitchen staff. Others tried to get
unemployment, dealing with the state’s
system crashing. “When we reopened, we
were able to bring back everyone who
wanted to come back,” he says.
Takeout and delivery had been offered
by some restaurants already, but others
began these services overnight.
“It worked well for us,” Replogle says.
“For five weeks, we offered dinner takeout
only. It didn’t make money, but it kept our >>
BY ELLEN GILLETTE