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Commissioner: Excluding Palm Beach County from Florida's reopening plan is 'wrong decision'

Hal Valeche calls governor’s decision short-sighted
Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche
Posted at 6:11 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 19:21:51-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Things haven’t been quite the same at Salute Market and Restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens since mid-March, thanks to the pandemic.

“It was Tuesday, March 17 we closed our doors, on that Friday, March 20, we invited our staff back so we could lay them off,” said Salute owner Michelle Lefkowitz said.

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The family-owned and operated business is waiting for dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program.

It’s surviving on takeout business and its neighborhood store, and that won't change anytime soon.

“It’s been very stressful. I think financial stress is the hardest thing for anybody to deal with,” Lefkowitz said.

The governor's latest executive order and plan to lift some restrictions during this reopening phase excludes restaurants like Salute and all others in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties for the time being.

In-door seating at restaurants in Palm Beach County will remain closed until further notice after Gov. Ron DeSantis said South Florida counties will not be part of the Phase 1 reopening plan that takes effect May 4.
In-door seating at restaurants in Palm Beach County will remain closed until further notice after Gov. Ron DeSantis said South Florida counties will not be part of the Phase 1 reopening plan that takes effect May 4.

Restaurants and retail across the state, outside of the three counties, will be permitted to reopen at 25 percent capacity when the executive order takes effect Monday at 12:01 a.m.

“At some point, you have to open. We have to be able to conduct our business here or we could potentially lose everything,” Lefkowitz said.

Citing what he called stable and possibly declining hospital, ventilator and ICU utilization numbers, Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche calls the governor’s decision short-sighted.

“Lumping us with Miami-Dade, I think is the wrong decision. It’s sort of thoughtless, frankly," Valeche said.

Commissioner Gregg Weiss told Contact 5 over email that he agrees with the governor, calling his decision to exclude Palm Beach County “prudent” because of the percentage of cases in southeast Florida and our proximity to Broward and Miami-Dade.

“Letting retail and restaurants go at 25 percent capacity, I think is a very small step, but there’s no reason for Palm Beach County not to be included in that step,” Valeche said.