‘People are much wiser:’ Bar owners hope for best behavior as they reopen

Florida bars start accepting patrons after coronavirus closure

ORLANDO, Fla. – Bar owners in Orlando hope that customers will be on their best bar behaviors as they reopen their doors for the first time in months.

Last week, the state Department of Business and Professional regulation announced bars can reopen Monday with 50% capacity inside, and as long as customers are seated and socially distanced.

The announcement came after DBPR shut down bars just about a week after they reopened as part of phase two in June.

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“Watching everybody suffer the way they have been, has been tough,” said Ron DiDonato, owner of the Thirsty Topher in Orlando’s Ivanohoe Village.

After a span of six months in survival mode, bar owners are ready to try again.

“It’s exciting to get back to something that looks normal, whatever that new normal is, it’s good to get back to that point,” DiDonato said.

Not too far away, the owner of Will’s Pub, William Walker, was getting ready for its reopening Monday. His bar next door, Lil Indie’s, opens on Wednesday.

“We are ready,” Walker said. “There’s more things that have come to light after paying attention to what we did before and we have been able to tighten up some things.”

Some of those things include better spacing of tables and seating inside, more plexiglass on the bar tops themselves and a better plan in case someone is exposed to COVID-19.

“We learned to not make things so knee-jerk, we are ahead of everything now and we have a comfortable plan if somebody gets sick or if we know someone gets exposed, we’d be able to handle that better,” Walker added.

He also said he has trained his staff to better handle customers who might not adhere to mask wearing and social distancing.

“We are definitely going to enforce the people who are co-mingling and things like that,” Walker said. “We kind of left it on people to do the right thing themselves and we found out they aren’t going to do that so we need to. We are not here to debate.”

Both owners Walker and DiDonato believe that people know how to behave when out during this time and are hopeful their bar behaviors are better this time around.

“If we have to close again, I don’t know if we will be able to survive,” DiDonato said. “But I believe people are much wiser now, they know how to handle themselves and I believe in my heart they will.”