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Not All Tampa Bay Restaurants Are Happy About Reopening With Limited Capacity

sign on a restaurant door says sorry we're closed.

Florida restaurants and retailers across most of the state got the green light to open indoor and outdoor dining at limited capacity starting Monday. It's Phase I of Gov. Ron DeSantis' plan to re-open the state.

And local businesses across the Tampa Bay area are having mixed reactions to the news.

For weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited restaurants to drive-thru orders, deliveries and carry out.

On Monday, May 4, restaurants across the state – except in Florida’s hardest-hit counties: Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward - can open at 25% capacity indoors with tables spaced six feet apart.

ALSO READ: Here's What Restrictions Are Eased Under DeSantis' 'Phase 1' Of Reopening

They can also seat people on indoor patios.

Nancy Caposey, who owns Caposey's Whole Works restaurant in New Port Richey, said she's happy the state is starting to re-open, but she's concerned.

She and her husband, John, have not collected a paycheck in six weeks to help ensure they can continue to pay their employees. She says their biggest expense is payroll, and they’ve stayed afloat on just takeout but only having a couple employees, including themselves, at a time.

Next week, when customers start flocking back to the small restaurant, which normally has a seating capacity of 50, she’ll need to bring on more help.

But her restaurant will only be able to seat about 12 people at a time.

"So now my payroll's going to skyrocket,” Capsoey said. “I'm only bringing in so much revenue. In the long run, it really might hurt us more than help us."

Some restaurants - like Parkshore Grill in St. Petersburg - say they ramped up cleaning, reduced their seating capacity, and handed out single use menus even before the safer-at-home order so next week will just pick up where they left off before the stay-at-home order.

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

Tyson Grant, executive chef and partner at Parkshore Grill, said the moment the statewide announcement was made, their phone rang off the hook for reservations.

They already require employees to wear gloves and wash their hands frequently. They also wipe down all tables with antibacterial wipes.

"I think it's a lot safer than a grocery store still, to this day, to go to the restaurants, so we feel good about it. (re-opening this week.)"

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Ford’s Garage, which has 12 of its 14 locations in Florida, will be closing down its bathrooms every 90 minutes to clean them, requiring all employees to wear masks, and giving out single-use menus too.

“We've instituted procedures like only one person in the manager's office at a time, only one person in the walk-in cooler at a time,” said Marc Brown, president of Ford’s Garage.

“We have six foot x's on the floor throughout all of our kitchens to ensure that our team members are constantly reminded about keeping space between themselves and working safely as a team for their own protection, and therefore eventually for our guests’ protection.”

He said many of the procedures put in place for the pandemic will be kept in place long after a vaccine is available, and suspects protocols will change permanently for most restaurants moving forward as well.

In this first phase of reopening the state, retail businesses can also operate at 25% indoor capacity, and elective surgeries can resume.

Bars will remain closed, as well as gyms, barber shops and hairdressers.

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I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.