South Tampa restaurant reopens after COVID-19 infections

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A South Tampa family-owned restaurant that has been in business for nearly five decades is back open after temporarily closing in November because of coronavirus.

“Who knows, I mean if we would have stayed open I wouldn’t want to expose more people,” said Danielle Ward, the owner of Woody’s Famous Salads. Her father Woody Gilbert opened the popular lunch spot on South Dale Mabry Highway in 1972.

Ward is among those who became infected and she still has what she calls COVID-19 “hangover symptoms.”

“I have a horrible headache right now,” she said Tuesday morning during her interview with 8 On Your Side.

Ward said she accepts she may never know how five family members and two employees at Woody’s contracted the virus.

“Maybe it was me and I gave it to everybody, my sister is in the hospital and I’m devastated over it,” she said.

Ward said her sister Melissa, who is ten years younger than her, had the worst case of COVID-19.

“She was in the hospital for four days,” Ward said. “She had a fever for 12 days. Her oxygen was very low, so she’s struggling to get back, but she’s a fighter.”

Ward told 8 On Your Side she stands by the decision she made to alert her customers of the positive cases.

“I posted that sign of complete transparency,” she said about the notice she put up on the front door. “We would shut down and quarantine everybody until we were certain that we were all well.”

Woody’s reopened in early December with dine-in service suspended. For now, it is takeout and delivery only for customers in South Tampa looking to have a salad, soup or sandwich for lunch.

“I’m might not be making any money,” Ward said, “But I found a formal that I’m comfortable with and can live with. I can look at my employees and I know I got you safe as best as possible and you’re employed.”

Despite the health and economic challenges, Ward said she grateful for her customers’ continued support and she is committed to keeping her family’s restaurant running beyond the pandemic.

“I come from a big family,” she said. “I know how to watch inventory. I know how to watch money. I got the finger on the pulse as best I can so we’re gonna make every effort to make this work even though it has been a struggle.”

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