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Al fresco dining in the early days of the pandemic kept restaurants alive, and they want it back

Winter in Fla. the perfect time for al fresco dining
Posted at 11:54 AM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 18:08:50-05

TAMPA, Fla. — After lockdowns lifted in the Spring, the City of Tampa launched an economic recovery program that helped restaurants make more sales than they would have in the early months of the pandemic.

When Florida entered phase one to reopen, the City of Tampa launched the Lift up Local Economic Recovery Program. It gave restaurants from Ybor City to Hyde Park the freedom to expand operations into the streets and take over much needed outdoor space to safely serve customers.

“I think that working hard with the mayor's initiative to have the tent which we had for several months during the summer was wonderful. It allowed us to thrive not only survive but to thrive in our business to have a place where people felt safe. Also to take care of our employees be able to pay people, keep them working,” Joe Guggino, co-owner of Forbici Modern Italian said.

Guggino said dining al fresco was a great experience for his staff and customers.

“We would love to shut the street down again and have our outdoor dining again. The more outdoor dining, the better,” Joe Guggino, co-owner of Forbici, said. “We are still under the same strict safety guidelines with our staff protecting our people when they come again the outdoor dining just gives us one more level of safety we can offer to our customers.”

Forbici is famous for their Italian inspired pizza cooked in minutes in a 650 plus degree oven.

“Our pizza is unique. It’s a Roman dough, so it’s a 72-hour fermentation. It makes for a visibly thick pizza but very, very light and airy in the crust, and people love it,” Guggino said.

Restaurants are now allowed to be at full capacity indoors. Because of that, Guggino said it’s been challenging to get everyone on board to close down the streets again. So, he is working on expanding operations onto part of the sidewalk outside the restaurant.

“We may be able to do a section where these parking spaces are. We just have to figure out with the distancing as far as what we have space for to allow walking traffic to come through,” Guggino said.

With cases spiking across the country and in Florida, Guggino said he wants to do whatever he can to keep customers safe. And, to-go orders and outside dining are all great options.

“We, as they say in The Godfather, ‘we go to the mattresses,’ we close the doors, we stay clean, we stay safe we get the to-go cranking we do family meals, and we do the best that we can,” Gugguni said. “I don’t want to have to do that again. It’s a tremendous challenge, but we are up for it if it happens.”