JUPITER, Fla. — If you've been to your favorite restaurants recently you may have noticed they are all operating a little differently under Palm Beach County's Phase 1 coronavirus Executive Orders.
WPTV NewsChannel 5 went to five restaurants in Northern Palm Beach County and discovered they each had their own interpretation of the orders.
"It's been very confusing, each premise seems to have something different going on," Said Hugh Jackson owner of Paddy Mac's in Palm Beach Gardens.
Restaurants WPTV Visited
- The Cooper (PGA BLVD) - Bars closed completely to patrons.
- Paddy Mac's (Military Trail) - Tables pushed up against the bar and spaced out but patrons must order food.
- Grande's (Donald Ross) - Tables pushed up against the bar, no food requirement.
- Jumby Bay (Abacoa Town Center) - Bartenders serving guests in the bar area, no bar service.
- Carmine's Coal Fire Pizza (University Drive) - Bar open for guests, stools spaced out.
"Some of the obstacles are not clear directions from week to week as to what the rules are for every restaurant," Said Vicki Parmelee owner of Jumby Bay in Jupiter.
Parmelee said she wants to comply to keep her guest safe but said her patrons mention the confusion often, "Whether you can have food at your table, you can't just have drinks."
Parmelee said sometimes it's hard to comply. During an inspection, Jumby Bay was told that every check needed to have food on it, but a manager pointed out there was a table of four sharing a plate of nachos. However, each guest had their own checks and only one check had the nachos on them.
She said she's reached out to her colleagues who run other restaurants, "They say, 'Oh well we are doing it this way, or we are doing this,' and I am just confused, I'm not sure what the actual rules are."
Restaurant owners say it is confusing because they are visited by multiple agencies.
"It's an ongoing nightmare show, not knowing what to do and how to do it," Said Jackson.
At any one-time business could be visited by six different agencies to suggest changes to operating procedures.
Agencies Involved in Enforcing Executive Orders
- Local law enforcement
- Local code enforcement
- Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
- Palm Beach Country Code Enforcement
- Health Department
- Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF)
"I think because it's a multi-agency approach so there are different interpretations of some of these executive orders," Said Ramsay Bulkeley Executive Director for Planning, Zoning, and Building for Palm Beach County.
WPTV NewsChannel 5 reached out to Palm Beach County's Coronavirus Education and Compliance Team (CECT) to help clarify the rules.
"You can be a restaurant that sells alcohol, you can not be a bar that sells food," Bulkeley said it's all about safety and optics, "So when people are playing pool, and hanging around drinking with drinks in their hand, not sitting down, not in booths, it starts to give the appearance of a bar which is not allowed."
He says the CECT is working to educate owners and trying to come up with flexible solutions to work with dead bar space in restaurants like pushing tables up against bars, "We've tried to be creative with the restaurants to help them try and stay in business."
The CECT says its chief goal is educating business owners to keep the public safe from the coronavirus and to keep businesses open. They are telling people to contact them if they see a business that doesn't appear to be following the guidelines and they will investigate. They are working extra hours to investigate the more than 5,000 claims they have already received.
Palm Beach County says the goal is to keep you safe from the coronavirus. If you see something you don't think is right you can report it to the compliance team. They investigate every case and have created an interactive map so you can see if your favorite hotspot is in compliance.
COVID-19 Business Complaint Map will help you see how your favorite business is complying with the @pbcgov Phase 1 Executive order.— T.A. Walker (@timallanwalker) August 21, 2020
LINK: https://t.co/lToiFmDDiJ@WPTV @FOX29WFLX pic.twitter.com/sgb4kpDTnV
Bulkeley said they don't want to shut businesses down, they want them to comply with the executive order. He said the team is going out daily to check on complaints and will close down businesses who refuse to follow the order. If a business is shut down they could receive a $15,000 fine, go before a special magistrate, and have their books entered as evidence.