Kriseman says St. Pete restaurants may prepare to open at 25 percent capacity starting Monday

Six-foot spacing between outside tables are good, too.

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click to enlarge Kriseman says St. Pete restaurants may prepare to open at 25 percent capacity starting Monday

UPDATED: 04/30/20 2:30 p.m.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is itching to prove that he’s moving past “fear” and getting the state’s economy going by implementing phase one of his “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step," reopening of Florida.

And while the verdict is still out on how a restaurant can pay 100% of its rent when the governor says it can only operate at 25% capacity, local leaders are starting to warm up to opening, too.

On Thursday, St. Petersburg Rick Mayor said that starting Monday, May 4, restaurants in his city may prepare to follow the state order permitting them to open at 25% occupancy indoor, with six-feet of space between tables outdoors.

“I want to be clear that the state's order does not require restaurants and retail establishments to open on Monday, it simply permits them to do so if they choose to do so,” Kriseman wrote, adding that retail establishments that were previously closed may also reopen on Monday at 25% occupancy.

Kriseman’s current reading of the recent order is that localities cannot expand the governor’s restrictions, only further restrict them.

“I will not do that in this instance,” Kriseman added. “I can assure all restaurateurs and business owners in St. Petersburg that they will have time to prepare if I were to further restrict a state order. It is important that our restaurants and retail establishments have clarity as soon as possible and that there is uniformity whenever possible.”

Hillsborough County’s Emergency Policy Group is in the midst of a 1:30 p.m. meeting to discuss its plan.

Many restaurants quickly pivoted to takeout after DeSantis shut down in-person dining in March. Some—like Bandit Coffee Co. (pictured)—have even adapted to supply provisions and groceries. All restaurants operating have been adhering to the CDC guidelines for cleanliness and employee health

Enforcement penalties remain in place, including a second-degree misdemeanor with a fine up to $500, for businesses exceeding the 25% threshold.

“The only thing we have to fear is letting fear overwhelm our sense of purpose and determination,” DeSantis—who also mentioned that phase two could come within the next few weeks—said yesterday.

What’s interesting about the governor’s comments and phase one plan is that they don’t truly acknowledge the state’s horrid unemployment system and how scores of small businesses have been left out of the federal government’s Payment Protection Plan and Economic Injury Disaster Loan emergency advance programs.

DeSantis said that his plan is a small, deliberate and methodical step “based on consultation with some of our greatest physicians,” but most medical experts say that widespread testing is key to any reopening effort.

Dr. Charles Lockwood, dean of University of South Florida’s College of Medicine, has been consulting with Hillsborough County’s EPG. On Monday, with DeSantis standing nearby during a press conference inside Tampa General Hospital, Lockwood said the state needs to test a minimum of 150 people per every 100,000 residents every day. But on Thursday, state officials said 382,966 people have been tested to date. As the Tampa Bay Times points out, “That’s the equivalent of about 42 people tested per 100,000.”

And while DeSantis suspended foreclosures and evictions for 45 days on April 2, local renters have still been threatened with eviction and been told that their rents were rising.

Some restaurants—like Gator’s Dockside—have even decided to close for good.

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About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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