Some restaurants across Orlando reopen with new capacity, social distancing guidelines

ORLANDO, Fla. — Several restaurants reopened Monday under the new guidelines saw some business, but saw varying success on their first day back to normalcy.

Under the Phase 1 guidelines, restaurants and retail could reopen under strict social distancing guidelines. For restaurants, they could offer indoor seating at 25% capacity, and outdoor seating if tables are six feet apart.

Tessa Bonacci works at Stardust Video and Coffee in Audobon Park, and on Monday, she served some of the first customers who can now enjoy their beers on the establishment’s premise.

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For now, Stardust is not letting customers eat inside. But since city officials gave them permission, they are using their huge parking lot to create more outdoor seating.

Before, they used to have nine tables bunched together on a patio. Now, they have 15 tables spread across the parking lot.

“It’s great that we have this and it’s given us the opportunity to be able to reopen in a safe way,” Bonacci said.


Still, many of the tables remained empty Monday evening.

Christian Salem, one of the customers, said he wasn’t surprised.

“I kind of had a feeling people were still going to be standoffish,” Salem said.

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In Lake Eola, however, there were customers more than willing to fill the patios of their favorite restaurants after weeks of settling for takeout or delivery.

“Everybody is practicing social distancing and so we can still enjoy ourselves and get out of the house,” customer Kelly Munday said.

If you were still hoping to dine in at Pig Floy’d in the Mills 50 district – well, they’re still only offering takeout and delivery.

“I think a lot of people do want to come out but it's just not safe - I don't consider it to be safe,” owner Thomas Ward said.

He said he will decide on June 1 to reopen or not, and his decision will largely depend on whether the number of COVID-19 cases continue to decrease in our community.

“I commend him for what he’s doing,” customer Taje Cifuentes said. “He’s taking a hit for the wellbeing of others.”

Retail and restaurants could reopen on Monday, but the usually bustling International Drive was still a ghost town,

At Pao Gostoso Bakery, the display cases are nearly bare. Due to the coronavirus, the staff has cut down the amount of bread to bake and sell that day. Everything is made fresh, so what they don’t sell, ends up in the trash.

Read: Restaurants, retailers reopen around Central Florida amid pandemic

“It’s really tough; I think we are down 85% of what we normally do,” bakery owner Felipe Andre said. “It’s been very, very tough.”

Like many restaurants, Pao Gostoso was prepared to reopen Monday with Phase 1.

“We (have been) sanitizing all of (the restaurant) before the client comes and after the client goes, and (we’re) using gloves, using masks,” Andre said.

However, with the theme parks closed and no timeline as to when they’ll reopen, foot traffic will be next to none, Andre said.

“The locals, they don’t like to drive to I-Drive, so we have that problem over here, specifically for tourists,” Andre said.

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Andre said it could be September before business picks back up, and hopes to hold up a few more months, or until the parks open back up.

“The bill’s coming, the electric bill’s not going to stop, the rent is going to be coming -- everything will be coming to us to pay,” he said.

Skywitness 9 flew over the Orlando Premium Outlets on Monday. A spokesperson said the stores would be opened, but many were closed along with several other stores along I-Drive.

It wasn’t clear why they hadn’t opened.

Karen Parks

Karen Parks, WFTV.com

Karen Parks is a reporter at WFTV.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.