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Port St. Lucie restaurants 'cautious but excited,' for dining areas to reopen

Posted at 9:18 PM, May 01, 2020

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — St. Lucie County will join the state in moving forward with Phase One of the Florida's reopening on Monday.

WPTV spoke Friday with restaurant owners who are trying to be optimistic about the chance to financially recover after the sharp downturn in the economy.

Joseph Scheibelhut has operated the Highway 55 Burgers Shakes and Fries restaurant in Port St. Lucie for the past five years.

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A former general contractor, he can only compare the COVID-19-induced slump in business to the 2008 recession.

”It was tough because I know they didn’t want to leave, but I couldn’t keep them and fortunately here I haven’t had to do that," said Scheibelhut.

He’s kept all his employees, but not all his business. Highway 55 has been limited to delivery and takeout since March. Next week, they plan to offer outdoor seating 6 feet apart under guidelines from Gov. Ron Desantis.

The hope is that limited capacity and social distancing will be enough to make dine-in customers feel more comfortable. As for the concerns of reopening, right now there is a divide.

”I’d be hesitant,” said one customer.

While another customer, Thomas McEnaney, said, “If you’re so worried about it, you can stay your butt home, but I’m going to continue to eat where I want to eat.”

Scheibelhut hopes to eventually get back to a "new normal.”

“I think we need to go into it slow, you know, Phase One is a good opportunity to see what the outcome is gonna end up to be," said Scheibelbut.

In the meantime, he says the most important thing is to have a positive attitude.