PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLA. - On Monday, all Florida counties will enter 'Full Phase 1: Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step Plan for Florida’s Recovery'.
Governor Ron DeSantis announced the executive order on Friday to allow restaurants, retail stores and gyms to increase capacity to 50% effective May 18.
“A lot of people are looking forward to this change,” said Chad Bennett, general manager of Mellow Mushroom in Delray Beach. “I think we’ll be busy. Hopefully we’ll get some traction and get some people in. Hopefully it will be worth it.”
The order also states that "outdoor seating is permissible with a minimum of six feet between parties".
According to the Florida Health Department, coronavirus testing has increased over the past week.
In a press release issued Saturday evening, Florida officials stated that the percent of those testing positive for COVID-19 overall is 7%.
On May 15, 7% of new cases tested positive, according to the report.
Bennett says he is keeping a close watch on the updates from the state and will handle the next step of Florida’s recovery plan with caution.
“I’ll take it day by day,” said Bennett about the state’s decision to expand capacity. “If they’re looking at numbers and feeling safe, then I’ll jump in and test the waters.”
There’s also growing concern among business owners about whether they can fully afford costs if their establishment remains half empty.
“Unfortunately, I think a lot of restaurants are not going to reopen,” said Michael Popper, owner of El Camino in Delray Beach. “Based on the PPP, if they don’t adjust it, [then] in three to four months a few more restaurants will go bankrupt.”
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.
The coronavirus loan program, executed by the Small Business Administration, will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks.
The money must be used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.
Popper owns additional restaurants in Delray Beach and is encouraged after noticing a subtle upswing in traffic at nearby hotels.
However, as travelers slowly begin to return to Palm Beach County, he is still voicing concerns about the long-term impact that restaurants will face as capacity limitations stay in place.
“We have to get open [to] 100%,” Popper said.