West Orange businesses continue to exercise caution as they reopen under state guidelines.
With Phase One of Florida’s reopening underway, the focus has shifted to slowly breathing life back into local businesses while maintaining a priority of safety first.
It’s been just more than a week since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis authorized the first phase of his recovery plan for the state to commence, and many businesses have jumped on the opportunity to resume some level of activity.
“Slowly but surely, we are navigating our new normal here within our community and within our state,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.
On Monday, May 4, restaurants and retail stores were allowed to open at 25% indoor capacity while following social distancing and safety guidelines. Restaurants also were allowed to open up outdoor seating, with tables 6 feet apart and no more than 10 guests in a party.
Then, on May 8, DeSantis announced that hair salons, barber shops and nail salons were allowed to reopen on Monday, May 11. The decision came nearly a week after Demings penned a letter to DeSantis asking him to consider reopening such personal services.
Additionally, Orange County began distributing personal protective equipment to qualifying small businesses on Monday, May 11. The county planned to distribute one million masks and 200,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to small businesses of 40 or fewer employees and nonprofits.
Winter Garden’s Bombshell Salon and Spa, as well as Earl Brigham’s Barber Shop, opened May 11 with restrictions and precautions in place.
At Bombshell Salon, services are by appointment only, and clients must wear masks. They also are asked to wait in their cars until they receive a text that the stylist is ready to see them. No guests of the client are allowed.
Earl Brigham’s Barber Shop is following similar protocol and is only allowing one client per barber at a time. Barbers are spaced 6 feet apart, and new sanitation requirements are in place.
Walk-in clients will be accepted, but appointments are encouraged. Clients are asked to wait in the Edgewater Hotel lobby or entrance hallway, outside, or in the car while waiting for their text.
In Horizon West, V’s Barbershop in Lakeside Village reopened Tuesday, May 12. All services are offered by appointment only, and temporary hours of operation are in place.
PROSE Nails in Hamlin reopened May 11 with four nail artists on schedule and limited hours. Appointments are required for all services, and the PROSE team will limit the number of people inside the salon to 10, as well as require guests to wear masks.
RESTAURANTS AND RETAIL
In downtown Winter Garden, city staff has blocked off some of the street parking with barricades to allow for more outdoor seating capacity. It’s a measure that has helped businesses such as Winter Garden Pizza Company.
“It just enhanced everything — especially with downtown Winter Garden supplying the barricades so we could use the parking spaces,” server Dana Danek said. “It looks amazing. … They have expanded our outdoor dining, and this time of year it’s gorgeous, so why not? People are enjoying it.”
“The city of Winter Garden has been absolutely phenomenal when it comes to helping us out,” said Frank Echevarria, co-owner of Winter Garden Pizza Company. “We have incredible support from the city. When you talk about running a business, it requires so much support from the community, the employees, staff and local government, and we have that in Winter Garden.
Echevarria said his staff has seen more people sitting outside at both the restaurant’s outdoor seating and the city’s added tables and umbrellas.
“Our key is always staff safety and, of course, customer safety,” he said. “We’re doing everything plausible to mitigate any infection or virus spread at the restaurant. It was hard not having the dining hall open. It’s a long time to not see your regulars. You miss them in the dining hall and all the noise that comes with it. It’s fun, it’s lively. We want to be here for the community.”
Jesus Duran, a manager at Urban Flats, said restaurant staff added additional outdoor seating of its own, along with additional social-distancing and sanitization measures.
“A lot of people are still coming in trying to get seats inside as well as outside, and we have waits going,” Duran said. “Honestly, business seems like it’s picking up and getting back to normal, which is what we’d hoped for. … Everyone’s been coming in and being supportive, and … we are taking as many precautions as we can with hand wipes and napkins, we have hand sanitizer sitting around all over the place, we have no problem offering our guests masks if they ask for one. It’s been honestly a great experience.”
Like Winter Garden, Ocoee also created special guidelines to assist their restaurants in reopening. It also is waiving permit fees associated with adding outdoor dining.
Texas Roadhouse reopened its dining room and offered outdoor seating May 11.
“Our dining room in Ocoee has reopened at limited capacity, and we are following the state guidelines,” said Karl Saunders, managing partner at Texas Roadhouse in Ocoee.
In unincorporated Orange County, which includes Horizon West, all state guidelines apply. Additionally, restaurants with preexisting outdoor seating cannot use any public sidewalks or rights-of-way. For restaurants without such outdoor seating, temporary seating must be located on private property. They cannot use parking areas or drive aisles, and seating is not allowed on public sidewalks or rights-of-way.