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Coronavirus: WestShore Plaza latest Tampa Bay mall to close

WestShore Plaza, one of the last malls open in the area, will close until further notice as of Monday night
A look at the WestShore Plaza, which is still partially open, on Monday, March 23, 2020 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD | Times]

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Employees in bright blue shirts wandered around WestShore Plaza Monday afternoon, cleaning windows, sweeping floors and keeping order. The six visible members of the maintenance staff outnumbered shoppers five hours before the mall was scheduled to shut its doors until further notice.

An alert went out to businesses about noon on Monday that when the mall closed at 7 p.m. that day it wouldn’t reopen. Restaurants offering takeout and delivery services — such as Magganos, which has a large banner out front advertising its takeout and catering — as well as stores with exterior entrances were exempt.

The anchor stores of J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods were already closed, though.

Related: It's hard to find grocery delivery right now

Walking through the mall looked like it might just at closing time, with gates pulled tight and lights off in many stores. The difference was the printed off signs reading “temporarily closed” on most storefronts.

Kelly Yokel, 53, of Wesley Chapel observed that the mall had an eerie feeling, being nearly deserted in the middle of the day.

She was at the mall with her boyfriend, Lee Przywara, who owns the Florida Currency Exchange and was there to assist an employee who had performed a large transaction.

For Przywara, 52, of Wesley Chapel business had already slowed. The exchange sells foreign currency to people who are traveling, and people aren’t traveling.

He has liquidated a lot of his inventory to keep paying his salaried employees, which represent about 20 percent of his staff across Florida, Texas and Utah.

“At this point, you think about family and friends,” he said. “I try to do what I can do for the people who support me.”

Three eateries in the WestShore Plaza food hall remained open Monday afternoon: Chick-Fil-A, Charleys Philly Steaks and Jersey Mike’s. Shalimar Custom Jewelers was one of the few stores that remained open, but had no customers at that time.

This was one of the last malls standing in Tampa Bay. International Plaza closed on Friday

Simon Property Group closed its malls — including St. Petersburg’s Tyrone Square, University Town Center in Sarasota and the Premium Outlets in Lutz — last Thursday until at least March 29. Westfield’s malls in Brandon, Sarasota and Clearwater are mostly closed until the same date.

Westfield has some exceptions however, for “essential businesses, including restaurants” and those with their own entrances. That list includes: BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, Dillard’s, P.F. Chang’s (Curbside Pick-Up Only), Red Robin, Whole Foods and StatMed Urgent Care.

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