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Many Tampa Bay area restaurants close voluntarily out of precaution with record cases of COVID-19

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Posted at 6:04 PM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 08:21:40-04

SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. — A sharp increase in COVID-19 cases has businesses around the Tampa Bay area closing down or changing their hours out of precaution.

“This is going to be a tough week no doubt about it going into the Fourth of July weekend,” said Geoff Luebkemann, the Senior VP of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

There’s no doubt, the hospitality industry has taken a second hit. Especially this weekend, as Luebkemann points out when restaurants are typically swarming in tourists and locals alike celebrating our nation’s independence.

“There are so many dynamics to this horrible time that’s really unique to the hospitality business. You can’t eat or drink with a face covering on that’s a fact,” said Luebkemann.

It’s why many restaurants will only offer outdoor seating.

MAP: Local restaurants with reported COVID-19 cases or safety changes due to rise in cases

Bar Fly in Safety Harbor is only opened for the second half of the week for right now with limited seating inside and out.

But, while Barfly is doing temporary hours, some businesses have closed down all together.

With two employees testing positive at The Nona’s Slice House, the owners decided to shut down and have all employees tested. Once they do re-open, it will be for no-contact take-out only.

Screaming Jalapeno has also voluntarily closed after an employee came in contact with someone who tested positive.

Both restaurants say the decision was difficult but safety and transparency come first.

It’s sad for those businesses certainly because they’re not able to maintain income, but we just passed a couple of businesses that actually voluntarily closed due to the staggering increase,” said Mark Jones, who opted to stick with the stay-cation to the Safety Harbor Spa with his wife they booked last month. “It seems like, at least with the spa, they are very conscious over maintaining social distancing and so on.”

“People need to keep their employees safe as well as the customers that are coming in,” said Cynthia Cook, who wore her mask as she played in the park with her kids.

Tiki Tavern plans will be shut-down through the weekend out of precaution.

Luebkemann says the businesses that do stay open must make clear what the expectations are for customers when they enter.

“The single most important thing that we can do once the guest arrives is take active control of the operation,” he said.

The association says screening employees before work, staying firm on wearing masks, social distancing, and disinfecting are key.

CLICK HERE for a map of businesses that have closed because of COVID-19.