PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it's been 28 weeks since businesses have been able to operate at full capacity in South Florida.
Friday marks the first full weekend where restaurants can open without seating restrictions, but some are planning to wait a while before getting back to normal.
Salute Market in Palm Beach Gardens is a favorite among locals. However, during the past six months, the owners have struggled to keep the lights on and stay afloat.
The pandemic forced Michelle Lefkowitz and her husband to lay off 90% of their employees. They are now looking forward to operating at full capacity.
"We're just happy to have our inside back," Lefkowitz said.
This all comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis moved the sate into Phase Three, which allowed businesses the option to operate without seating restrictions.
Lefkowitz added she and her husband decided to take advantage of the opportunity to meet the needs of her customers and employees.
"I think we've seen from our customers, they want to be in here with 100% capacity, they are ready and they want to come, and I think people are moving towards normal," she said.
Not all restaurants are following suit. Owner Dean Lavallee of Park Avenue BBQ Grille in West Palm Beach said he appreciates the governor lifting restrictions, but understands some customers may not feel comfortable dinning in without seating resections in place.
"We don't want to make the customers who are choosing us now to feel uncomfortable and we don't want to put 12 pounds in a 10-pound bag," he said. "Our season really starts around two weeks before Christmas, so we have some time to figure this out for ourselves before we hit a panic button. The idea is not to try to make every penny this month. It's trying to survive try to keep our employees and try to keep our customers safe."
In the meantime, Lavallee said, he's looking to expand the outdoor dining experience. He's currently securing permits to add three patios for outdoor seating.
Meanwhile at Salute Market, the restaurant will be re-launching its Oktoberfest menu, that includes special cocktails and cuisines.
"We are super excited," Lefkowitz said. "We're ready."