By Anne Geggis
COVID-19’s kick put Broward County two weeks behind most of the state in reopening businesses shuttered in the pandemic crisis.
But now the county is moving ahead: Monday’s reopening will be under some of the least restrictive rules around for eating out.
Instead of limiting indoor seating to 25 percent of the restaurants’ capacity as the state pandemic rules originally outlined, Broward County restaurants can fill up to 50 percent of their indoor seats and 50 percent of their outdoor tables, provided that social distance rules are met with dining groups at least six feet apart.
But before you head out to get a table, you might want to call ahead. Not everyone is flinging their doors open.
Dena Lowell Blauschild, Parkland resident and co-owner of The Cook and the Cork, on Sample Road, said opening her 40-seat dining room partially doesn’t make sense financially, considering the costs of complying with pandemic rules.
Those rules include installing plexiglass and other accommodations, she said.
“We are always super clean … but the guidelines are not viable,” she said. “The second reason is that, based on the scientific data that I’m reading from reliable sources, I don’t think it’s safe for my staff and my guests to open up.”
“I won’t open up until I feel like everything is under control with the spread of this virus.
At the Big Bear Brewing Company, though, preparations are underway to resume the on-site noshing that has been ongoing there for the last 24 years, until now. The 50 percent capacity rule versus 25 percent capacity will only mean eight to ten more customers at Big Bear Brewing Company because of dining room logistics, according to Greg Sherman, managing partner.
But he’s looking forward to getting back to somewhat normal.
“At least it’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” Sherman said.
Better forget about working off that meal at a gym like LA Fitness, though. Within hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that commercial gyms around the state could open, Broward County’s administration decided gyms would remain closed for now, according to Commissioner Lamar Fisher.
Retail will be allowed to open Monday to shopaholics denied their fix for the last two months, according to specifics Broward County announced Thursday, but the situation with Coral Square Mall is murky.
City officials said they haven’t heard that the mall will open Monday, and a spokeswoman for Simon Group, which operates the mall, said no date had been announced.
But Camilla Huang, who operates Camilla Day Spa in the mall, said she heard that it would be opening Monday. That opening will be happening without her business.
“We will take next week to train, prepare,” she said, noting that new procedures must be followed in the time of coronavirus.
May 25 is the day spa’s targeting to fully open, Huang said.
Ultimately, consumers will be the ones who decide when business will return, as usual, said Commissioner Michael Udine, who represents Coral Springs. He was in favor of allowing more capacity into restaurant dining rooms.
“The economy is going to reopen when the public wants the economy to reopen,” Udine said. “We want to make sure when we roll out these new requirements that everyone is doing their best to maintain social distancing and using best practice so that everyone has a good experience.”
But Commissioner Nan Rich of Weston is afraid it’s going to be hard to restrain the rush of enthusiasm and maintain the practices that keep people safe from the coronavirus infection.
Theoretically, only one customer for every 50 square feet will be allowed at Simon Group-operated malls, according to corporate documents.
“We don’t have the coronavirus contained — people need to remember that,” Rich said. “The more people we come in contact, the higher the risk to ourselves, our families, and others.”
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- Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.
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