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Reopen Tampa: Restaurants go all-hands-on-deck in welcoming customers, maintaining social distancing

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Posted at 11:17 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 08:38:16-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- It was all-hands-on-deck for local restaurants as they had to welcome in anxious, hungry customers for Cinco de Mayo.

This year's festivities come a day after Phase 1 of Governor Ron DeSantis' plan to reopen Florida officially kicked in. Per Gov. DeSantis' orders, restaurants in Florida are allowed to fill up to 25% capacity for dine-in customers and those looking to eat outside must sit 6-feet apart from neighboring tables.

As hungry customers were ready to return to the new normal, a lot of the restaurants had to juggle between keeping up with the high demand and making sure the community stays safe.

The Green Lemon in SoHo had to close early Tuesday night because the restaurant said it couldn't meet the demand and keep people at a safe distance.

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Over in Ybor, tables and chairs were spaced out along Seventh Avenue after city officials shut down the historic strip to traffic. The closures give restaurants some extra space to serve more people.

Tequilas in Ybor was able to maintain just under the 25% capacity.

"We know how many people can fit in each dining room and that's it," said Jason Fernandez, owner of Tequilas. "When we hit that capacity, we stop it."

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RELATED: City of Tampa closes roads as part of pilot project to help local businesses

This week serves as a major test for anxious customers with cabin fever.

“For me, it felt like a little crack in the wall allowing us to go out and have a good time because who knows when we’re going to have this kind of environment," said customer Glenn Sanchez, of Tampa. "So I feel very safe.”

The Tampa Police Department roamed the historic district to make sure the party didn't spill onto the street.

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“And it’s not going to be allowed, it’s not going to be tolerated," Fernandez said. "We’re not going to jeopardized having the rest of the city open up for one night, that’s foolishness and that’s not going to happen.”

ABC Action News was told that TPD plans to patrol the typical hot spots -- like Ybor and South Howard -- this week and over the weekend to make sure people are practicing social distancing.