Jacksonville mayor says city offices set to reopen by June

Mayor Lenny Curry held his 1st in-person news conference in weeks at Toscana Little Italy

On Monday evening, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry held his first in-person news conference in weeks at Toscana Little Italy on Hendricks Avenue. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry on Monday night highlighted a Jacksonville restaurant that he said is reopening in a “safe and responsible way" and announced that most city government offices are expected to reopen by June 1.

The mayor held his first in-person news conference in weeks at Toscana Little Italy on Hendricks Avenue, a local business that has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jacksonville has gradually been reopening its economy from the coronavirus shutdown. It started two weeks ago when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed restaurants and retailers to open at 25% capacity. On Monday, Florida allowed restaurants and shops to expand their capacity from 25% to 50%.

The mayor said the outdoor dining at Toscana Little Italy is also taking advantage of the relaxed enforcement of the zoning code related to outdoor restaurants and retailers that he previously announced.

“Toscana is a great example of a business that is reopening responsibly. They’re adhering to the 50% capacity limit for their indoor dining and have expanded their outdoor options in cooperation with their landlord, Tony Sleiman,” Curry said. “They’re practicing social distancing and other measures are in place.”

Rebecca Winchester, owner of Toscana Little Italy, went over the measures that the restaurant has taken for the safety of its customers and employees.

“We’ve also enacted a lot of social distancing in our restaurant, meaning that we are at every 6 feet on the table so nobody’s sitting on top of each other. We are making sure that all of our front of house staff is masked and gloved for your protection, as well as theirs. We also have put in major sanitation guidelines of how to clean the tables and also eating utensils,” Winchester said. “We are doing everything we can to make this a responsible opening, and we hope to set an example for everybody.”

Curry said the final steps of the “back-to-work” plan for city departments are being worked through. By Monday, June 1, he expects most city government offices will be open, with safety measures in place. Curry said some employees will be brought back as early as this week and that will continue in the coming days.

Tax Collector Jim Overton will be opening another branch location on Thursday and another next week by appointment only. Both Property Appraiser Jerry Holland and Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan will be prepared to reopen June 1.

The state also allowed gyms, libraries and museums to reopen on Monday at 50% capacity. Curry pointed out that the Mortgage, Rent and Utility program is based out of the downtown Main Jacksonville Public Library, but he said the city is looking at curbside pickup and return options beginning Wednesday, May 27, and opening some locations with 50% capacity by June 1. He said those locations will be announced soon.

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Curry also stressed the importance of increasing COVID-19 testing capacity. He said part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding that the city received will go toward setting up additional testing locations throughout Jacksonville for a six-month period.

He added that the city is working with private businesses and organizations on their locations, as well. Recently, CVS Pharmacy opened a testing location on Duval Station Road near the Jacksonville International Airport. Anyone interesting in being tested can schedule an appointment at CVS.com.

In addition, the Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic on Jefferson Street is offering testing for VA patients only, free of charge.

More information on these locations and a map of available testing sites throughout Jacksonville can be found at COJ.net/COVID19Testing.

The mayor’s work-from-home order also expired Monday.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.