JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis loosened restrictions on restaurants, stores and gyms Friday as part of his plan to reopen the state.
DeSantis was at Ascension St. Vincent’s in Riverside, alongside hospital administrators and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, to announce his next step in reopening Florida.
He said positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths were down, and that it’s time to get back to some normal activities safely.
For the first time since March, gyms can be open, if they follow strict guidelines, starting Monday. Also, restaurants will be able to operate at 50% capacity.
Chef Sam Efron, owner of Taverna in San Marco, said the restaurant is happy to learn of the loosened restrictions. He said the restaurant has been surviving on takeout and outdoor dining.
“We let go of 63 employees and we have about 30 that we are able to bring back,” Efron said. “We’re doing everything we can to stay afloat and every little bit helps.”
In St. Augustine, Michael Lugo is the chef and owner of Michael’s restaurant. He said the pas few weeks have been a relief, reuniting with his customers.
“It’s amazing. Most of the people in here tonight and this whole week have been regulars and have supported us through many years, so it feels like you have your family back and you get to do what you love and enjoy,” Lugo said.
Customers, like Scott Glazier, are also excited to see restaurants open up more.
“It was also nice to not eat off of Styrofoam for once and have your meal actually be warm instead of cold when you get it home," Glazier said.
Lugo said the restaurant is taking precautions with employees wearing masks and keeping customers at a safe distance.
“I think that its up to us now to start practicing safe distancing but also enjoy the opportunity for guests to support our businesses," he said.
Retailers, museums and libraries will also be able to go back to 50% capacity on Monday. A note, however, about libraries in Duval County: A spokesperson told News4Jax that Jacksonville Public Libraries does not plan to reopen any locations Monday.
Movie theaters and bars must remain closed under Phase 2 and visitors are still restricted from long term care facilities.