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With Two Days To Go Before Phase One Kicks In, Central Florida Restaurant Owners Weigh the Pros and Cons of Reopening

Photo: Sebastian Coman Photography
Photo: Sebastian Coman Photography

On Monday, restaurants in Florida will be allowed to open for dining, with some limitations, for the first time in more than a month. 

Not all restaurants are rushing to open their dining rooms though. 

WMFE spoke with Dave Nicholas, the founding partner of Alexandria Restaurant Partners, about his plans to bring back diners. 

Here are excerpts from our conversation. 

On Nicholas' plans for Monday. 

"We have no plans for Monday yet. We want to be super responsible as we make decisions and as much as we want to get open, we're not going to rush and do the wrong thing. We are planning on opening up Cafe Tu Tu Tango and serving our Tango favorites and also our Mia's Italian Kitchen favorites out of Cafe Tu Tu Tango for to-go starting on Friday the 8th."

On safeguards he's putting in place. 

"We ordered 3,000 face masks. So split those up between the restaurants up north and here. I brought some with me yesterday. We are working on getting as much sanitizer as we can, and have sanitizing stations in as many areas as we can depending on what access we have to sanitizer and sanitizing stations. We have a couple of restaurants up north that are open for to-go and are fairly busy and we have a temperature log in those restaurants."

On the impact of the pandemic on business.

"Devastating. We have over 700 employees spread out all over our restaurants. A lot of employees here in the Orlando market. And you know everybody's been without pay. We do feed our employees meals for four people several times a week. It's been a little harder here in Orlando because we don't have an open restaurant yet. But we did actually cook Monday and [...] employees all signed up, there was around eighty or ninety of them that came and got food."

On whether DeSantis' phase one plan does enough. 

"To open up for twenty five percent inside the restaurant that means I can have fifty people in the restaurant. We're not sure that that makes sense and we're not sure we want to take the risk from a health standpoint. We're not in a rush, I mean we're in a rush to get back to normal, but we're not in a rush to do it halfway and jeopardize going backwards."
To listen to the full conversation, click on the clip above.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.