SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - It has been two months since Florida entered phase two of Governor DeSantis' 'Safe. Smart. Step-by-step' plan. Almost all businesses in the state have been able to operate at at least 50% capacity indoors, and full capacity outdoors, since then. However, this has not been enough to keep businesses afloat.
Even in places like the City of Sarasota, where local leaders have allowed additional space outside without permits to give these places a chance to serve more customers, it's not the capacity that is the biggest problem - it's the staff.
“Businesses have had to truly navigate this on their own, and make the best decisions for their employees and their operation,” said Heather Kasten, CEO & President of the Sarasota Chamber Of Commerce.
Some businesses have re-opened and welcomed customers as much as possible. While others, have chosen to keep their doors closed. Many owners saying they may be able to hire all of their staff back, but not all service industry employees feel ready to be back in close contact with the public.
“I think there is some true fear among some people. They don’t want to come back to work because they are truly fearful,” explained Kasten.
Many restaurants on the Suncoast are seeing a second wave of issues. Even if they are able to get enough staff to work, they’re having to close down in a moment’s notice when an employee or even a customer has tested positive for COVID-19 after being on its property.
“If the restaurant does it properly and they evoke confidence in their customers and their guests, and their guests go and they fell like they have a safe clean and happy experience, then those restaurants will survive. Unfortunately, as we’re seeing, some restaurants aren’t doing it responsibly. So guests and employees are getting sick. And they’re forcing to shut down. Since they did it irresponsibly,” Josh Cunningham, whom has worker for more than 20 years in the restaurant industry, tells ABC7.
Plus, this industry, which was already hit hard economically because of the closures caused by the pandemic, has relied on government help for funding. A fact that many workers are still trying to take advantage of.
“There are some people who say they’re going to stay home and make more money than going back, but that’s pretty short thinking because they’re not going to have a job when the stimulus runs out. I’ve had employers tell me that they’re employees say they’ll just stay home. This is another huge factor that has come into play as well,” Kasten explained.
As this pandemic is still a very fluid situation, businesses are adapting week by week to new regulations. As of right now, the CDC does not suggest businesses shut down after having a COVID-19 case. Instead, they’re told to just properly sanitize, and a patient may return to work 10 days after testing positive.