| The Gainesville Sun
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday he was lifting coronavirus restrictions on restaurants across Florida, but Alachua County officials and some local eateries say they don’t expect a big impact right away.
“We are very happy about it,” said Mike Marston, general manager at Miller’s Ale House in Celebration Pointe. “We are waiting to see what Alachua County says. Our bars are still closed, we are not doing 100 percent yet.”
“Up until we see something in black and white, we are going to keep everything the way it is right now,” said Mother’s Pub & Grill manager Aaron Behner.
While DeSantis said his order takes effect immediately, Alachua County officials said words at a press conference don’t carry the weight of official action.
“Orders have to be in writing, signed and sealed,” said Mark Sexton, county spokesman. “Emergency orders are legal documents; we can’t thoroughly digest it based on a summary at a press conference.”
The Phase 3 order also will allow theme parks to go to full capacity from their current 50% limits, and lifts any restrictions on gatherings, although the state is still recommending that people avoid crowded spaces.
The governor’s order does not directly effect plans by the University of Florida to limit seating capacity at next weekend’s football game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to 20%. Nor is it expected to impact this weekend’s Gatornationals races in Gainesville.
Bars can go beyond 50% capacity if local governments give them the green light, DeSantis said.
More: COVID-19 in Florida: What you need to know Friday, Sept. 25
“We’re also saying in the state of Florida, everybody has an opportunity and the right to work,” DeSantis said in announcing the reopening, flanked by restaurateurs in St. Petersburg.
“Every business has the right to operate. If some of the locals, they can do reasonable regulation, but you can’t just say ‘no’ after six months and just have people twisting in the wind,” he added.
The order also prohibits local governments from collecting fines stemming from such pandemic-related mandates as mask requirements. It wasn’t immediately clear whether removing this threat will undermine local mask policies that are in place in most of Florida’s urban areas.
Martin Mertz, one of the managers at Metro Diner, said everything is happening too fast.
“We have other countries that took precautions seriously, I don’t think we are,” Mertz said. “Opening up to 100% is enabling people to not to take things seriously. I don’t care if I have more money, if people have to keep staying quarantined. Nothing has changed in the world, we are still getting new cases everyday. This type of stuff, when you do this, people think it is over and want to live their lives like before. But it’s not over.”
Marston said Ale House’s business is about 85% of what it was doing a year ago, and credits it’s to-go service, which has grown with COVID concerns.
But the safety concerns at restaurants will continue, despite opening up.
“We are still going to continue the high standards of cleaning in all of this, with our staff and equipment,” he said. “That is the new normal now. We will continue to keep our staff and patrons as safe as possible.”
John Kennedy with the Gannett state desk contributed to this report.