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Stuart restaurants see fewer customers due to coronavirus

Vine & Barley Stuart
Posted at 11:33 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 23:56:22-04

STUART, Fla. — Bars and nightclubs in Florida served their last call on Tuesday evening and will stay closed for 30 days in the midst of coronavirus concerns.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on Tuesday saying any bars and nightclubs which derive more than 50 percent of their revenue through selling alcohol must stop selling alcoholic beverages for 30 days.

Restaurants will still be able to stay open, but under certain restrictions.

Restaurants have to limit occupancy to 50 percent. They also have to keep a 6-foot distance between tables and limit groups to no more than 10 people.

Restaurant employees who are showing signs of respiratory illness, who have traveled through any airport during the past 14 days, or who have been on a cruise ship over the last 14 days are not allowed to enter the restaurant, according to the executive order.

The governor’s office was not immediately clear if bars could still stay open to serve food. WPTV is waiting for a response.

Restaurant and bar owners and employees hope the new precautions will help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Stuart Boathouse Executive Chef John Scott said he noticed a big difference inside the restaurant Tuesday night.

"This time of year, the entire restaurant would be full. The bar would be full. Right now, we’re completely empty except for outdoor seating," Scott said.

Staffing for waiters was cut in half at Stuart Boathouse. One bartender was on shift instead of two. The kitchen staff was also reduced. Scott said they are constantly cleaning.

Scott added the developments surrounding coronavirus will definitely impact their paychecks.

"I was just kind of surprised. It’s all coming on really fast and didn’t expect the drop in business," Scott said. "Morale is down. Everybody is worried about how they’re going to pay their next bills."

The White House has stressed the need for immediate economic relief and is looking at possibly giving Americans checks to overcome financial hardships from the coronavirus. It's still unclear how much money would be given and who would be eligible.

For bar owners like Mike Carbone, anything would help. His business, Vine and Barley in downtown Stuart, will remain closed. He would have liked to see an option to still serve people under similar restrictions as restaurants.

"It hurts a lot. We don’t quite understand it," Carbone said. "Peak season and 30 days? Yeah, it’s going to hurt."

But Carbone is finding other ways to hopefully make some money.

"If we can continue selling packaged beer and wine like growlers, bottles of wine, bottles of beer, that’s going to help a little bit," Carbone said.

Carbone hopes the 30-day closure makes a difference.

"They’re saying 30 days. Let’s hope it’s not 60 days or 90 days. 30 days is bad enough," said Carbone.