As COVID-19 cases spike, St. Augustine businesses see sales increases as visitors return

The business owners said they think that people feel more comfortable going out now that more people are vaccinated.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Many St. Augustine businesses are seeing a spike in sales after being hit hard during the pandemic.

On Friday, downtown St. Augustine was packed with people enjoying a night out. But a year ago, the street was a lot quieter during the height of the pandemic.

Walk down the historic St. George Street and you’ll likely see people walking, shopping and eating at restaurants.

Lisa Rivera works at Ancient City Tours which like many businesses was impacted by the pandemic.

“We were shut down for about six weeks. During that six-week period, nothing. It literally was a ghost town here,” Rivera said.

She said she expected to see more customers come in when restrictions were lifted. But she didn’t imagine that business would continue to grow as it has.

“We are sold out,” Rivera said. “On average seven days a week, six tours a night.”

The owner of Auggie’s Draft Room said his sales have doubled compared to this same time last year.

“Even this last week, Fourth of July being two weeks ago, it has blown up incredibly. This was supposed to be going into our downtime and it’s picked up even more,” said owner Corey Kernan.

He said it’s a good problem to have.

“We’re all a little bit tired, but we’re all happy that it is all doing really well,” he added.

The business owners said they think that people feel more comfortable going out now that more people are vaccinated.

But across the state, there has been a rise in COVID-19 cases.

The CDC said Florida cases accounted for 20% of all new infections in the country, fueled by the delta variant.

Cities like Los Angeles are reinstating their mask mandates as the number of cases rises.

The St. Augustine Distillery has already incorporated social distancing into their tastings.

“If regulations come back in we’ll go ahead and go right with that just to make sure we keep all our guests safe and our employees safe. That’s really our main priority,” said manager Nicole Vinci.

Masks aren’t required at any of the shops in the downtown St. Augustine area but News4Jax did see some people wearing them.

People said they’re staying aware of the number of cases but it’s not stopping them from going out.

“We feel safe because most people in this area it seems have been vaccinated,” said Bridget Sharpe. “I mean we have so it’s good to be outside and to be able to enjoy St. Augustine.”

In St. Johns County, 62% of residents 12 and older have been vaccinated with at least one dose. That’s the highest rate of 11 Jacksonville-area counties tracked by News4Jax.

Businesses said that they aren’t requiring masks but people can wear them if they want to.

Some shops have signs encouraging social distancing.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.