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Hillsborough County businesses prepare for phase one of reopening plan on Monday

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Posted at 4:47 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 18:01:34-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Business owners are trying to find a balance of opening their doors and keeping people safe during the COVID-19 crisis.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced this week a plan to reopen the state. The first phase of that plan begins Monday, loosening restrictions on restaurants and retail.

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“We had to furlough over 1,100 people,” said Richard Gonzmart, president of Columbia Restaurant Group.

All of Gonzmart’s restaurants closed in March. The restaurants hadn’t been doing takeout either, but Friday, one of his brands, Goody Goody, started a curbside pickup for customers.

In phase one of the Governor’s plan, restaurants can open outdoor dining with six feet between tables. Indoor seating is limited to 25 percent capacity.

Despite that, Gonzmart’s restaurants will stay closed, choosing instead to watch and wait.

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“We’ll make the conscious decision when that might be,” said Gonzmart. “It might be, one restaurant might open May 15 possibly, maybe another one June 1.”

“We’re shooting for it, but we still have some questions to work out,” said Andrew Smith, owner of Salt Pines in Hyde Park Village.

Retail can also open Monday with indoor capacity at 25 percent. Smith says they’re working out new safety measures for customers and staff.

“That’s taking the time to make sure we’re putting up barriers in between the check-out register between the staff and the customer. Also making sure we’re providing that six-foot guidance for people waiting to check out, and also just making sure we’re limiting the capacity inside of our store,” said Smith.

Bars, gyms, and personal services like hairdressers are still closed.