WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Business appears to be picking up in South Florida, driven by an influx of tourists and Florida residents feeling better about the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
Along Clematis Street in West Palm Beach on Thursday, the restaurant business seemed to be getting back to normal after a rough last few months.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Rebound South Florida
Customers were crowding outdoor seating at Rocco's Tacos, and according to owner Rocco Mangel, business is getting better.
"I think a lot of locals that were concerned about the virus are actually now going out, on top of people lucky enough to travel," Mangel said.
The coronavirus has not gone away, but consumer confidence appears to be growing as the vaccines start to reach more of the population.
"The vaccinations will be a shot in the arm for the economy," said Mark Hamrick, senior economist at Bankrate.com.
Hamrick said South Florida is enjoying a resurgence in tourist traffic driven by looser restrictions and pleasant outdoor dining options.
He said it could also be the start of a true recovery for the rest of the country's economy, which came to a halt a year ago.
"There's a great deal of optimism among businesses in the next six to 12 months. I think consumers will be increasingly comfortable with the economy and see jobs coming back," Hamrick said.
In South Florida, there is evidence of jobs returning.
"There were roughly 1,800 people out of work from the restaurant group I'm involved with, and we’ve luckily hired all of them back, and we’re having a hard time right now trying to find people," Mangel said.
It's still a long way to go with masks and precautions still in place, but many business owners are starting to feel better for the first time since the pandemic started last year.