Reopening of Florida Commerce Phasing In on Monday

Todays News

A statewide stay-at-home order will lift on Monday as Florida begins Phase 1 or reopening business amid the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday. While the strictest part of the statewide order will remain in place in thee South Florida counties with the highest infection totals, But Sarasota and Manatee counties will have no restrictions unless local governments choose to put them in place.

Business leaders in the region welcomed the opening of business, but stressed company owners will remain proactive in guarding public health and preventing further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Small businesses are ready to be open and get back to business, balancing safety measures with all of it,” said Heather Kasten, president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

The most notable business regulation shift may be in something that predated DeSantis’ statewide order. Shortly after Florida’s first COVID-19 case (a Manatee County resident), DeSantis ordered dining limits and ultimately a restriction on businesses to only serve take-out. Starting Monday, most restaurants will be able to open 25% of their dining rooms.

How that works mathematically for business budgets remains to be seen.

“What I have heard from restaurants is, like most businesses with an on-site customer base, the numbers will need to make sense to ramp up service,” said Jacki Dezelski, President and CEO of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. “That will vary from establishment to establishment.”

But Kasten said every allowance is helpful.

“It’s a good start,” she said. “Once we get our people out and working again, I do think things will continue to ramp up and businesses will get more staff reengaged.”

Similar to dining, non-essential retail will be allowed to re-open with 25% limitations. Business leaders are anxious to see details, but know the store owners inviting customers inside again after weeks will demonstrate caution, both to protect customers and their own staffs.

“Businesses want to do the right thing,” Dezelski stressed. The Chamber will also serve as a source off guidelines and best practices for businesses seeking information on healthy reopening.

There’s other business matters still unresolved. A restriction on short-term rentals remains in place, something severely impacting the region’s tourism economy. And Kasten said she’d like to see relief for hyper-small businesses like hair dressers and other solo-preneurs. But she feels happy DeSantis stressed the next phase of reopening will come in a matter of days or weeks, not months. 

“This is just a glimmer of hope we can start getting back to business,” she said. “It’s going to encourage that business owner who a week ago or two weeks ago had no ideas if they would be shut down for the entire month or May or June.”

From a government standpoint, state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, made clear he’s been pleased with DeSantis’ leadership, whether in restricting access to area nursing homes, a move Gruters said probably saved thousands, or allowing some commerce to remain opened that other states locked down.

“He is continuing his measured and step by step approach and Florida will come back stronger than ever because we are resilient,” he said.

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