Restaurant, bar owners weigh option of increasing seating capacity after DeSantis announces phase 3 of reopening

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that the state will be moving into phase 3 of its reopening plan.

In phase three, restaurants no longer have restrictions on capacity. They are allowed to operate at 100% capacity.

DeSantis said he is also signing an order to guarantee that restaurants can operate at at least 50% capacity statewide.

READ: Florida moving into phase 3 of reopening: What that means for restaurants, theme parks & more

But several local bars and restaurants said they will continue to limit capacity, at least for now.

Chris Esser, the owner of Sanford Brewing Company, said they still need answers on what level of social distancing will be required before they proceed with opening up to full capacity.

“At the same time we are still going to maintain the same sanitation and everything we can possibly do make our guests safe but if we can fit a few more people in it will go a long way to help,” he said.

READ: Orange County mask mandate remains in place in phase 3, mayor says

Christina Hollerbach, the owner Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe, said she’s excited for the opportunity to up her restaurant’s capacity, but will take her time doing so.

“We are going to ease back into that and we want to make sure we can still ensure peoples' safety and that our staff can get used to it," she said.

Orange County health officer Dr. Raul Pino said he was surprised by DeSantis' announcement, but said independently of the governor’s orders, we have an obligation to protect ourselves and protect everyone else.

READ: Orange County teacher who taught virtually dies of COVID-19

“Nothing prohibits us from continuing to protect yourself or protect your families,” he said.

Jamie Tokes, the area director of operations for Hawker’s in Mills 50, said Hawker’s is going to make sure its protecting its workers before it increases its capacity.

“For Hawker’s it’s going to be business as usual moving forward until we can talk to our team members and discuss with them, until they feel comfortable for us to make any changes moving forward,” Tokes said.

Read DeSantis' full executive order below:

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Katlyn Brieskorn, WFTV.com

Katlyn Brieskorn is a Digital Assignment Editor at WFTV. She joined Channel 9 in July 2019.