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Some residents, business owners ask city leaders for more restrictions as COVID-19 cases climb

Coronavirus

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – COVID-19 isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. City leaders in Sarasota say concerned residents and business owners are seeking more local restrictions, but there’s only so much that can be done.

Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch tells 8 On Your Side she’s received several messages from concerned residents asking for city leaders to limit restaurants to take-out and dine-out only. She says even some restaurant owners want to see a ban on indoor dining until we flatten the curve.

“We don’t have the authority to do that. Since the Governor has already weighed in on the capacity of the restaurants, we don’t have the authority to override the Governor,” said Mayor Ahearn-Koch. “Businesses are asking, restaurants are asking,” she continued.

8 On Your Side spoke with two local restaurant owners who expressed concerns about their employees working in close quarters.

One of the business owners who asked not to be identified out of fear of choosing sides on what has become a political issue said, “I do believe any indoor seating in restaurants, especially the small ones, is dangerous to our staff”.

“As our chef saw the numbers increase so steadily, he just said, this is not worth it, this is unsafe for our guests, this is unsafe for our team,” said local server Lauren Jackson.

Jackson admits it hasn’t been comfortable wearing a face mask while working outdoors in the Florida heat, but she sees it as the best option to protect her livelihood and her health.

“We have a super small team. They’re only six of us front of house and four of us back of house, so we are a really small 10 or 11 person team. If one of us is down, the whole restaurant goes down,” said Jackson.

Downtown restaurant owner Michelle Schlingmann tells 8 On Your Side, it’s been a very tough balance navigating through the pandemic, but she’s confident customers at her restaurant feel comfortable with the safety protocol in place.

“I believe we absolutely have enough in place to keep it safe inside. We have a little buzzer that goes off where everyone stops what they are doing and they wipe the high traffic areas, doors, the ladies rooms, the counters, and the high touch areas. We are doing everything that we can to keep our employees and our customers safe,” said Schlingmann. “You never know. Nothing is a 100% guarantee, but we are doing all we can,” she continued.

Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie says she’s been receiving emails from residents asking for city leaders to consider another shutdown.

“If the numbers continue to spike, we have the right to go into special executive session and ask our City Attorney to research what our authority is. In my mind, nothing is off the table at this point if the numbers, unfortunately, continue to go in the wrong direction,” she continued.

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