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Bars reopen in the Tampa Bay area, owners commit to keeping customers safe

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Posted at 4:54 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 02:26:55-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Back in business! Bars are now open again in the Tampa Bay area and employees are making a commitment to keep customers safe.

Michael Marano, the owner of the Emerald Bar on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg says he is elated. For the first time in months, there is an open sign back out on the sidewalk in front of his family-owned bar.

“I know a lot of people are like ‘eh, how important are bars?’ This is our livelihood. It’s the livelihood of the people who work here and for my family,” he said.

His family has passing down the bar for three generations and 70 years, putting the pressure on Marano to keep the family tradition thriving.

“When you’re in charge, you don’t want to think that we’re going to go out of business under my watch,” he added with a laugh.

Now, plastic partitions are up. The bar stools are spaced apart and a sign at the door explains if you can’t find a seat, the bar is full.

By mid-afternoon, customers started filing back into the small bar greeting friends with a cheer.

A few doors down, Kat Wilson at Bar @ 548 says she is equally happy to have most of her employees back and scheduled full-time.

“There are a lot of mom pop places that didn’t make it, so of course our family here at 548 feel extremely lucky to be where we are with the pandemic. We’re hoping some of the smaller bars can make it through,” she explained.

Wilson says “to go” drinks and a recently acquired restaurant license allowed them to only close for a few weeks during the pandemic.

“It’s been a lifesaver,” she said.

The owner was able to help talk other bars owners through the process of acquiring a restaurant license in hopes of reviving their businesses.

The re-opening comes with mixed emotions for some. Many bar owners are unsure if they’ll be able to make ends meet with only half occupancy. Others worry about stocking the right amount of supplies without knowing how much demand they will see.

Yet, at Cycle Brewing, the beer vats are bring prepped as walls are painted, and Doug Dozark is hopeful.

“I don’t know how long it will be before we have the old normal or if we ever get there but I think we’re ready to adapt and see where things go,” he stated.

The reopening comes with rules. Tables are capped at 10 people. Masks are required unless you’re actively eating or drinking and you also have to be seated in order to get service.

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Marano says there will be challenges, but this is a great start to getting back on track.

“It’s real good to get our staff back working. It’s been almost 6 months of no income and just money going out for electricity, keeping coolers going, water lines,” he explained.

Wilson agreed, “Our employees are extremely happy to be back. We are an up and coming busy city these days so it’s extremely important to St. Petersburg.”