25% capacity limit doesn’t bring enough business to cover overhead, Melbourne Beach restaurant owner says

Reopening rules could leave dozens of restaurants in the red

MELBOURNE BEACH, Fla. – Some business is better than no business, unless your restaurant offers authentic fresh New England seafood, according to one Melbourne Beach restaurant owner.

Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to reopen Florida, restaurants are allowed to reopen during phase one, but only 25% of the building capacity is allowed inside and guests sitting outside must follow strict social distancing guidelines.

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The New England Seafood Eatery and Pub made the tough decision not to reopen under the 25% capacity limit this week after finding the cost to reopen would leave them in the red.

“We can’t even cover our overhead,” pub manager Tawney Tuscher said. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword. We want to open but there’s a lot of concerns with doing that.”

Tuscher said staffers are concerned about potential health risks because even if patrons wear masks to the restaurant, once they prepare to eat their meals they will remove the masks.

“A lot of us have people we go home to that have health issues," she said. "I, myself, am a diabetic.”

The eatery also faces a supply issue impacted by logistics and COVID-19.

According to Tuscher, the fresh seafood usually trucked in from the Northeast is not being delivered because of the coronavirus.

Although the restaurant had considered a limited menu, the lack of seafood and the limited capacity rules forced them to remain on the economic sidelines.

“Opening with a limited menu is not interesting to us, Tuscher said. ”Our business is New England Eatery. That’s the type of food we serve. We have to be able to get our product.”

Juli Cyhan, a single mother with an 8-year-old son is related to the owners and has worked as a server at the restaurant for eight years.

Cyhan told News 6 the restaurant has a capacity of more than 200 people and in her view, the state limits could impact the future of the entire 42-member staff.

“It’s probably going to put some of us out of work," she said. “You aren’t going to pay people to stand around.”

Cyhan said she still hasn’t received unemployment benefits and is starting to feel the pressure as bills come due.

“To not have my only source of income to support my family is really stressful,” a tearful Cyhan said. "No business, no money. I’m scared.”

If you have a story you want to share or if you want to help families like Cyhan’s, email Mike Holfeld at mholfeld@wkmg.com.

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