ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — It’s a popular spot in the heart of Downtown St. Petersburg.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, I love this place, I love the city, I love everything about this,” said Joshua Connell, owner of Five Bucks Drinkery.
It’s why he plans to change things up by outlining new COVID-19 safety protocols to keep employees and customers safe.
“We are going to be significantly more forceful about customers sitting to be served,” he said. “We’re not going to allow people to simply get up and walk around the restaurant anymore.”
The changes come after St. Pete filed a lawsuit against them for not following the city’s COVID-19 ordinance. That litigation was ultimately dissolved late Thursday afternoon after it was provided the restaurant’s “Risk Mitigation plan and COVID-19 protocols.”
But even so, Connell says he takes the city’s message very seriously.
“If you’re going to come down to Five Bucks Drinkery you’ve got to follow the city’s ordinance,” he said. “I’ve got the city’s back on this believe it or not. I want to stand with the city, I want to be an ally to the city of St. Petersburg, I don’t wanna be an enemy.”
Connell says he’s hired a new security team to help enforce the mask policy plus they will designate a “mask manager” on staff to keep an eye out for folks who don’t have one. They will provide a mask to someone who doesn’t have one, and plan on selling cloth masks for $5 with all proceeds benefiting Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
The plan also says customers will ONLY be served if they are seated and there will be no bar service. They will have hand sanitizer throughout the building and temp checks for employees.
Connell says these rules are non-negotiable, even for employees who are spotted without a mask.
“The majority of the problems that we’ve had in the past was an employee bringing it down or taking it off so the customer could hear them more clearly, it’s a loud bar on a busy night. It’s hard to understand some people sometimes,” he said, adding, “You’ve got to wear your mask because it’s in the interest of public health. If that mask comes off for any reason or if it’s down or it’s not properly worn it’s a zero-tolerance, we’re gonna have to fire you on the spot.”
He says they also plan on limiting capacity inside the bar to only the number of actual seats inside. There are signs posted at all entrances alerting people to the new policies.
He also says food protocols will change. All forks/knives will be one-time disposable and food will be served in single-use disposable baskets, except salads. Connell says they plan to open later Friday in order to go through training with employees and hopes customers will not only understand but fully comply.
“Let’s play by the rules, we can still have a good time. The environment may feel a little bit different than if ever used to but this is just temporary,” he said. “I made a commitment to the city that we’re going to do the best we possibly can and it means whatever we gotta do, we’re gonna do it!”