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SWFL restaurants react to Governor’s decision on capacity

Posted at 12:36 AM, Sep 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-27 10:54:24-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — You might not have to make dinner reservations this weekend, with restaurants now able to operate at full capacity.

It's all part of the Florida phase three reopening plan.

On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced restaurants and bars could operate at 100 percent capacity effective immediately.

"We're very excited to hear the news, it's long overdue," said Jay Johnson, owner of Bubbas Roadhouse and Saloon in Cape Coral. "Financially it's been a big strain on us, right now we're operating at a loss for the year; hopefully, we can gain that back, but I'm not optimistic."

The governor's executive order allows restaurants to immediately reopen without limits from the state, and orders that restaurants can operate at a minimum of fifty percent capacity despite local rule.

"As of this point, we're going to leave our employees in masks; we're planning to continue with some of the deep cleaning that we've been doing as well as sanitizing," said Johnson.

Earlier this month, DeSantis met with several restaurant operators in Fort Myers to talk about increasing the capacity in restaurants.

Johnson was one of those restaurant operators.

"I think it was time, I think he held off until the timing he thought was better, and the cases have been down," said Johnson.

But not all restaurant owners say they're ready to operate at 100 percent.

"We're not going to open at full capacity, we think it's a little too soon," said Igor Vugaklija, owner of House of Pasta in Fort Myers.

Vugaklija says he's glad to have the option of full capacity but plans to still operate at fifty percent capacity for now.

"Just based on the reactions of our guests, we see them every day, they come in scared, they like when there's enough room, sometimes they've even asked if they can sit a little further away, so I don't think everyone is ready," said Vugaklija.

Vugaklija says he'll wait until his customers begin to feel more comfortable with a full house.

DeSantis says cities and counties that plan to restrict operations between 50 to 100 percent capacity for restaurants will need to give justification and identify the costs involved.

The order does not force municipalities to increase capacity in bars beyond 50 percent, but they are free to do so.