DeSantis lifts restaurant, bar restrictions, but not all establishments on board

Northwest Florida

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Governor Ron DeSantis revealed Thursday he is ready to lift restrictions on Florida bars and restaurants.

During a two hour Tallahassee roundtable discussing the societal impacts of lockdowns, DeSantis told reporters he plans to remove the 50 percent capacity cap, allowing establishments to operate at “the capacity they’re comfortable with.”

He added that the state will not allow local municipalities the power to close restaurants and bars for COVID-19 related reasons.

“I don’t think the closure of restaurants has proven to be effective,” DeSantis said. “We can’t have these businesses dying.”

The governor did not give a timeline for lifting the restrictions. As of Thursday night, no executive order has been issued.

The governor’s office did not return 8 On Your Side’s inquiries.

Some restaurants, like Forbici Modern Italian in Tampa’s Hyde Park, will remain at current operations regardless.

“It keeps our staff safe, it keeps our customers feeling comfortable,” said owner Jeff Gigante.

“I like that,” said Khenh Vong, who spoke to 8 On Your Side after wrapping up a meal at Forbici. “That makes me feel comfortable, like they’re being responsible about the guidelines and health.”

But Gigante understands the appeal for other restaurants to expand capacity, however. The last six months have been brutal on business.

“I believe this new mandate coming out is going to be helpful for a lot of businesses that have been on the ropes,” he said.

According to the National Restaurant Association, 100,000 restaurants have shut down for good since the pandemic began. It’s unclear how many are in Florida.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association did not return email inquiries as of Thursday night.

Under normal circumstances, a half-empty restaurant is not what a restauranteur wants to see. But just thankful to have survived this far, Gigante is looking at the glass half-full.

“My wife asks me, because I’ve been coming in every night, she’s like ‘every night?!'” he explained. “I’m like, I just want to see the place with people in there!”

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