West Orange businesses find 'new normal' with phased reopening

Some West Orange-area businesses have reopened within guidelines while others are erring on the side of caution.

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  • | 11:43 a.m. May 4, 2020
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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With the first part of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' phased approach to reopening the state beginning Monday, May 4, some West Orange-area businesses are adapting yet again to a new set of guidelines.

The first phase of reopening allows retail stores, restaurants, museums and libraries to operate at 25% capacity. Restaurants also are allowed to offer outdoor seating and must further ensure all people are a minimum of 6 feet apart. State parks also are open again but with limited hours, capacities and services, and many shopping malls will open their doors once again.

However, there still are many businesses that are not included in Phase 1. Bars, nightclubs, gyms and personal services such as hairdressing remain closed for the time being. In addition, schools will continue distance learning for the remainder of the academic year, and senior-living facilities will continue adhering to a no-visitor policy.

Those businesses that are allowed to reopen must continue to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which continue to advocate for groups of 10 or fewer and 6 feet of space between parties. Businesses that exceed 25% capacities can be fined up to $500 and could charge violators with a second-degree misdemeanor.

The Breakfast Club of Ocoee was among restaurants that reopened for dine-in May 4, posting on Facebook for the first time since June 2019 a video that showed diners following social-distancing guidelines. Tape marked the floors and every other table to encourage social distancing.

“We’ve kept 7 feet distance between each table, and all tables only have hand sanitizer on them,” the restaurant said. “All the condiments that were using are only in disposable containers, and we’re also only giving out paper menus. We’re maintaining the highest level of sanitary measures to make sure our staff and all our customers are safe to dine in.”

Hagan O’Reilly’s in Winter Garden also is open at 25% capacity inside and social distancing outside. 

“We have arranged both areas to comply with state guidelines for reopening,” said Joe Amos, Hagan O’Reilly’s general manager, the day before the reopening. “We hope to see lots of friendly faces fill both areas tomorrow. We appreciate all the support we have gotten through this tough time.”

West Orange Creamery and Soda Fountain also reopened for dine-in May 4, but not without some hesitation. Indoor seating is limited to 10 guests at max, and neither tasters nor board games will be available.

“I’m still really hesitant to open the doors and not be able to manage it accordingly, so we’re just going to open really slow,” said owner Jo Eveland. “We’ll take it on a one-to-one basis. We’re not going to just open the doors. We’re going to work on measuring all of our tables, we’re going to go ahead and disinfect everything … and we’ll be definitely open with our outdoor seating and chairs.”

Meanwhile, Frutamix Mexican Kitchen and Daniel’s Cheesesteak House in Winter Garden, as well as Dixie Cream Cafe in Windermere, are among those businesses that have decided not to reopen for dine-in yet.

“Precautions must be in place and guidelines strictly adhered to,” Dixie Cream staff said. “When we do reopen, you can rest assured staff training, food safety and your safety will be of utmost priority.”

“We are all super appreciative of the love you’ve shown us,” said Frankie Liz, one of the restaurant owners. “For May we have decided to continue safety protocols by offering all delivery services. … You can still call and place an order for pickup (but) there will be no dining in available until June. We have a large hand sanitizer station out front along with social-distancing markers on the floor.”