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Bars and restaurants worried about economic impact as local cities announce restrictions

Posted at 5:35 PM, Mar 16, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- A normally bustling pizzeria in the heart of Ybor City is empty.

“We would’ve been packed by now,” said Genti Bunjaku, the owner of Due Amici Pizza in Ybor City.

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There are rows of tables wide open and pies barely sliced into as many folks practice social distancing to keep the spread of Coronavirus at bay.

“It’s just panic because you’ve got to pay bills, you’ve got a pay rent, you’ve got to pay employees and all of the employees look at you like I need to get paid,” he said.

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That’s one of Bunjaku’s biggest fears — letting down the employees that have been working for him for years. He worries many businesses will be forced to shut down.

“It’s crazy because you don’t know what to do next,” he said.

And while some folks like Shane Smith are still showing up in person, others are not and are avoiding places with large crowds. Smith says there are other ways to help keep these businesses alive.

“Maybe just buying gift cards for a future meal instead of eating today,” Smith said. “That carries cash flow over to the owners to let them continue on for this time being.”

St. Pete is limiting bars, restaurants and theaters to just 50-percent occupancy. They are also telling bars they need to have “last call” by 9 p.m. or risk losing their licenses.

RELATED: Kriseman orders last call for alcoholic beverages at St. Pete bars to 9 p.m. amid coronavirus concerns

The City of Tampa is urging businesses to also limit large gatherings.

“Hopefully her short period of time we flatten that curve and we can move on shortly after,” Smith said. “Maybe St. Patrick’s Day comes in April this year.”

Smith hopes folks will utilize delivery services so businesses can still function.

Uber eats is offering a $0 delivery fee for small businesses and paying restaurants their share of profit daily versus the standard weekly payout.