JACKSONVILLE, Fla, – On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and other businesses in Florida., effective immediately.
That includes limits on the numbers of people who can dine in restaurants, while also prohibiting local governments from closing restaurants and collecting fines from people who don’t wear face masks.
Jason Eddy is the managing partner of Orsay in Avondale.
“It came as a surprise,” he said. “We are cautiously optimistic to get back to a type of normal.”
The business, like many others, took a serious financial hit, losing 30% to 40% of profits. But, the restaurant is making things work.
“The nature of our business is fast-paced and you must roll with the punches,” Eddy said. “And that’s what we have done of the past few (months)."
Once again, every seat in the dining room can be filled.
Across town in Five Points, Bobby Bergeron has a construction company. He hopes that the drop of state restrictions is a good thing.
“It’s not that bad. It could be a lot worse,” he said.
Cool Moose Café in Riverside said it will be taking the change at its own pace.
“It is still unknown what’s going to happen in the fall in terms of the virus and the flu and the combination of such,” said owner Anthony Jarvis.
He’s not sure if he will expand to full capacity.
“We are small. We get fairly busy on the weekends and quite honestly, it’s nice to have a little extra space,” Jarvis said. “We’re just trying to go day by day like every business and trying to evaluate what we’re seeing out in the public and maybe other businesses and make decisions accordingly.”
He said weekdays have slowed down compared to weekends, but it could change depending on what customers are comfortable with.
Metro Diner on Hendricks Avenue said it has reopened its diner to full capacity and will have 4-foot social distancing between customers, and will still be requiring face masks for staff. The restaurant is also continuing with curbside, which currently accounts for 50% of sales.
Metro Diner managing partner Ed Lenhart said the past six months were extremely rough. The restaurant laid off half its staff -- 17 people -- because of the financial burden. Lenhart said 13 have since been re-hired, adding that for the first few months of the pandemic, Metro Diner fed all team members, including the ones laid off, and their families every day.
“We took a beating. I remember one of the worst things in the restaurant industry, believe it or not, you don’t lay people off. That’s just almost unheard of until this year,” Lenhart said. “We, as a company, are still doing face masks for the team members. We’re still doing temperature checks for every individual that works. The other thing that we do -- we have a hotline health check that they go to every day and complete a survey on whether they had symptoms or exposure.”
Sun-Ray Cinema co-owner Shana David-Massett said her movie theater shut down for 10 weeks and has been running at 20% capacity.
“Taking a financial hit, taking a psychological hit, taking every kind of hit except the very worst one -- which was our health,” David-Massett said. “We’ve been really grateful our team has stayed healthy this entire period.”
David-Massett said she and her husband have had to get creative and started offering private showings.
“Now that the titles are canceled on us, we have had to get creative. We said, 'OK and it’s Friday night if you want to have that 40th birthday party with your socially distanced guests that you’ve been quarantining with or however you want to do it, we now have that availability where you can watch whenever you would like or what title you would like with your friends,” she said.
Sun-Ray has also been offering drive-in movies around town since May. For the entire month of October, Sun-Ray will host 16 Halloween-themed movies at Tailgaters Parking on Talleyrand Avenue, starting with “Creature from the Black Lagoon” on Oct. 2.
David-Massett said they have been offering a capacity of 110 cars with averaging 75 cars per show.
Some health experts are not happy about the governor’s decision to enter Phase 3. One Florida doctor tweeted:
Florida has had the most deaths of any state in the nation over the last 7 days. This order does not encourage nor ensure that precautions will be taken to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Floridians safe. https://t.co/JwEaZrTz2F— Dr. Kayser Enneking (@KayserEnneking) September 25, 2020
Florida’s Department of Health website still encourages that you wash your hands, socially distance yourself and wear a mask.
News4Jax asked a spokesperson for the city if Duval County will mage a change to its face covering policy. A request for response was not immediately returned Friday.