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As restaurants and bars across the country shut down, Tampa Bay’s eating and drinking establishments remain open. In some cases, they saw record numbers of crowds over the weekend, despite suggested social distancing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During a press event Sunday evening, Gov. Ron DeSantis admitted that Florida was experiencing community spread of the disease, and said he would be offering additional guidance to municipalities regarding bars and restaurants on Monday.
Most Tampa Bay restaurants remain open as owners sprint to adapt and stay afloat amid the pending economic backlash. Here are five ways the local restaurant industry is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Single-use menus
Restaurants across the area — including Oak & Ola and Rooster & the Till in Tampa and Baba in St. Petersburg — are ditching their reusable, standard menus for single-use options, which are printed new for each customer and then disposed of immediately.
2. Take-out and delivery options
In an attempt to appeal to diners who are uncomfortable dining out in public but still want to support their local restaurants, some eateries are pivoting to a delivery and take-out model, though none of them have shut down dining-in service exclusively yet.
On Sunday evening, Dunedin’s The Restorative announced they would be temporarily changing their name to The Temporary and focusing on take-out, with a revolving menu that will change weekly. Guests are encouraged to order ahead and can also order a bottle of wine to-go.
Mise en Place will also offer two new delivery menus, one of which is a streamlined version of the restaurant’s current menu and another version that features special prepared foods and healthy options, including salmon dishes and chicken pot pies.
Starbucks also recently announced its stores will shift to a full-time to-go model for the next two weeks.
3. Increased sanitation and safety measures
Restaurants and bars across the Tampa Bay area have been sending out email blasts ensuring guests that their staff are healthy and taking the highest possible sanitation precautions possible. Employees who are feeling sick are asked to stay home and guests who are showing symptoms or feeling ill are asked to refrain from dining out.
At Tres Amigos Cantina in Brandon, a sign on the door Sunday asked that anyone age 65 or older with an illness or compromised-immune system stay home and order to-go. At Haven in Tampa, servers are bringing share plates, glassware and silverware rolled by gloved staff, and the valets are also wearing gloves. At Bern’s Steak House, the Caesar salad is no longer being served table-side.
4. Spacing measures for social distancing
Taking a cue from restaurants across the country, some local restaurants are attempting to offer guests additional space between tables. The CDC suggests six feet as part of their social distancing recommendation. At the Lucky Dill Deli in Palm Harbor, owner Alex Mitow said all the tables are now spaced four feet apart and additional tables have been moved outside for extra space. At Mise en Place in Tampa and the Dewey restaurant in Pass-a-Grille, some tables and bar seating have been removed to lower the capacity roughly 13 to 18 percent.
5. Switching to disposable tableware
Restaurants, coffee shops and bars everywhere are quickly pivoting to single-use utensils, dining mats, cups and plates. At 7venth Sun Brewing and 3 Daughters Brewing, beers are currently being served in plastic cups, and coffee shops across the Tampa Bay area have stopped accepting reusable tumblers and mugs from customers.
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