Phased reopening a scary prospect for Halloween-themed bar in Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force met Tuesday to discuss initial guidelines for reopening businesses in more than a dozen industries.

The task force's proposed guidelines and mandates are in their preliminary stage and could change once Gov. Ron DeSantis announces his plan Wednesday to reopen the state's economy.

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Orange County plans to open in phases, and will spend two weeks in each phase with at least a few days in between to make sure COVID-19 cases aren’t spiking.

However, if the county doesn’t start Phase 1 for at least a couple of weeks then Phase 2, which is when large bars might reopen, might not begin until June.

“This could destroy us,” said James Morrone, who opened Cocktails and Screams with his wife six months ago. But the Halloween-themed bar has been closed for the last six weeks, and could be facing a frightening future.

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The task force is considering recommending that restaurants use disposable menus and requiring them to make hand sanitizer available at each table, to supply employees with face masks and that to conduct temperatures checks on workers prior to starting a shift.

The task force is also considering recommending that large theme parks to tape markings on the ground every six feet in ride lines and requiring employees to wear face masks and undergo temperature checks before a shift starts.

Because it’s a bar larger than 2,000 square feet, Cocktails and Screams might not reopen until Phase 2.

“Whatever date that we pick is going to be a couple weeks away at minimum,” Mayor Jerry Demings said.

The Task Force wants to give business owners time to train their employees and get their hands on supplies. Some of the possible mandates include wearing masks, temperature checks, ample hand sanitizer and social distancing.

Bars smaller than 2,000 square feet might get to open during Phase 1, but only at 50% capacity.

Morrone said he would like to see other solutions.

“Why not, say, a quarter percent capacity for a larger bar then, because … I would be more comfortable in a larger space where I can spread out with less people than in a 2,000-square-foot bar with more people,” he said.

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Cocktails and Screams has a speakeasy in the back that’s 600 square feet. Morrone said he wonders if he could just open that space.

“Honestly, it's worth it to open for anything at this point,” he said.

Morrone said he’s applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration but hasn’t received anything, and he’s not sure if any of his employees have received employment benefits.

“Let us open and we'll follow your guidelines,” he said. “If they need to, be stricter for over 2,000 square feet, but don't make us wait another two months because that could be life or death.”

Demings said he wants to pick a reopening date by maybe Friday or early next week.

Theme parks could also be required to wipe down railings and surfaces on rides after visitors disembark them.

Click here or scroll below for a full list of preliminary guidelines and mandates for Orange County businesses, broken down by industry:

Click here to watch a recording of Tuesday’s meeting.


Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.

Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly, WFTV.com

Jason Kelly joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2014. He serves as the station's Digital Executive Producer.