New Year’s, new variant: Downtown Orlando bars, restaurants adjust holiday festivities amid COVID-19 surge

New Year’s Eve activities enact COVID-19 safety protocols

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Safety is key for so many restaurant and bar owners ahead of their New Year’s Eve festivities amid the latest omicron surge.

Casey Preston is co-property owner at District Gastrobar and Scratch Kitchen on Church Street in Orlando. He said he and his staff have been taking steps to make sure everyone has a fun yet safe experience.

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“We want everyone to come out and have a good time, so there are some additional safety precautions we’re going to take,” Preston said. “We know everyone has a lot to celebrate. We just want everyone to come out and be safe and enjoy themselves.”

He said his employees have been tested and are vaccinated, and they’re also adding more sanitation stations, doing temperature checks and reducing capacity.

“Just come out and be safe. It’s not just about you,” Preston said. “It’s all about just following the protocols and guidelines, so this is our new normal.”

This comes after the annual Orange Ball drop held at Latitudes’ rooftop bar in downtown Orlando was canceled this year. It was canceled not because of COVID-19, but due to the recent construction on the rooftop.

Meanwhile, Monica McCown at Artisan’s Table Restaurant in downtown Orlando is taking precautions too. She said she’s testing her employees regularly and keeping tables 6 feet apart.

“We’re going to do our best to serve all of the guests and go about our business as safely as possible,” McCown said.

She told News 6, however, her bottom line has been cut because of recent staffing shortages due to COVID-19.

“We’re definitely still losing money almost every single month because we are turning so many guests away due to being understaffed and limited capacity,” McCown said.

We’re told Orange Avenue will have several security checkpoints and require guests to go through screenings in downtown Orlando.

About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.