Bars throughout the county welcomed Gov. DeSantis to allow them to re-open Friday, at no more than 50 percent capacity, but they know it will be a while before things return to normal.
During the closure, which began March 17, High Five Dive Bar in Apalachicola added new tables in the courtyard, and two more out front, to prepare for the re-opening.
“The renovations I did should allow plenty of room since everything is not so packed in there,” said owner Ronnie Jones.
“We got a ton of Clorox wipes to keep everything wiped down, and disposable plastic cups to be discarded after each use,” he said. “The doors will be open so no need to touch them and the fresh air will flow through so the bar is pretty much fully open air.”
Jones said he’ll continue to offer live music, but they’ll be mostly single acoustic acts. “At 50 percent capacity I can't pay for the big bands plus trying to keep the crowd down is easier.”
While you’ll see lots of hand sanitizer available when they’re open Wednesday through Sunday, you may not see masks. “Masks are optional as the only people who work there are close family,” he said.
At the Apalachicola Ice Company around the corner, expect all staff will be masked, which is recommended but not mandated by the state.
“Staff are the ones who break the microbial bubble of every patron,” said owner Erin Frost. “It would be irresponsible of us not to take that precaution so that our patrons' social distancing efforts aren't completely destroyed by us every time we serve them.
“We're being careful to start, as we want to gauge the safety of the bar scene first and foremost. And we're also financially strained,” she said. “Next weekend we have bands booked, and hope between now and then would be enough time for us to get precautions and crowd control figured out.”
Frost said the closure has been difficult on the business. “We lost our biggest holiday of the year, St. Patrick’s Day, and the entirety of our busiest season too,” she said. “We're opening at a bigger deficit than both our initial startup and Hurricane Michael. It's going to be a long road back.”
A dental hygienist by profession, Frost said the bar is committed to the new rules,. “We don't want to be a part of the problem. This pandemic isn't over,” she said. “None of us can afford to be shut down a second time. But if we all don't take some responsibility, that's something that could definitely happen.
“The state says 50 percent capacity and still recommends social distancing,” Frost said. “We're going to do everything we can to facilitate that. Thankfully we are a very large place, mostly open air.”
She said there will be plenty of hand sanitizer readily available, and Clorox wipes for pool cues, and other surfaces. “It's the best we can do. Hopefully it's enough,” Frost said. “Gulf County had their first case of local transmission.
“It's going to happen here, we just have to be diligent in trying to mitigate the impact,” she said.