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Tampa Bay bar owners are anxious to reopen on Friday

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Posted at 4:47 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 18:51:55-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Bars and pubs across Tampa Bay are getting the green light to reopen starting on Friday.

The businesses have been closed for nearly three months to slow the spread of COVID-19 and bar owners tell ABC Action News they’re ecstatic to welcome back customers.

Alcohol deliveries are back at Our Bar in St. Pete. Owner Mitchell Faber and bartender Nikki Baker spent the day Thursday restocking the fridge, putting ice back into the coolers and organizing new deliveries of beer and booze.

“When I got the text from my bosses that we would reopen, I screamed and cried and was so overwhelmed because we didn’t know. We kept waiting everyday for the governor to say this is the day we can go back to our bars,” Baker said with a smile.

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Baker has been out of work and without a paycheck for three months and problems with Florida’s unemployment website kept her from collecting state benefits.

Starting Friday, June 5, bars can open to 50% capacity inside and 100% capacity outside as long as tables are spaced apart.

“We’re bleaching, sanitizing everything in the bar. Making sure everything is clean and ready to go,” Faber explained.

Patrons can also sit at barstools again starting Friday, which should help restaurants to space out customers even more.

Yet, the openings come with some stipulations like bartenders can only serve customers seated outside and not anyone standing. Nightclubs also can not reopen yet.

“It’s going to be a challenge for many of the bars. Typical old buildings in St. Pete are narrow and deep on the lot and bar owners are going to have their work cut out for them to make sure everyone does the right thing,” Brian Longstreth of Punky’s Bar and Grill elaborated.

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Phase two comes at a good time for bar owners. With Pride events canceled on both sides of the bay, businesses are losing one of their best weekends of the year, on top of COVID-19.

“It’s kinda been like the hits keep coming,” Longsteth added.

“I think everybody is just ready to see their friends again and have a drink and raise our glasses and making it through a tough few months,” Baker said with a chuckle.

Bar owners tell ABC Action News they plan to do whatever they can to keep patrons safe.

“The one thing we’re going to have to do is tell people 'hey keep your distance.' It’s like I know you haven’t seen Larry in two months or Beth in a few weeks, but we have enough space here that people will be able to talk and still do social distancing,” Faber added.