Tampa Bay restaurants adjust to stay open during coronavirus outbreak


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – While some Tampa Bay restaurants are making the tough call to close, others are adjusting to changing restrictions to serve customers and keep employees working.  

8 On Your Side has a list of restaurants offering delivery and deals during the coronavirus pandemic.

The SoHo district in South Tampa was noticeably quieter on the second night since Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Friday only permitting takeout and delivery. The goal of the governor’s orders is to promote social distancing in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I feel like I’m in the twilight zone,” Michael Stewart told 8 On Your Side via FaceTime. “Honestly, three weeks ago we came off our best month probably ever.”

Now, the challenge for Tampa Bay restaurant owners like Stewart is coming up with the right recipe to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

“We don’t know when its going to be over,” Stewart said. “Nobody does.”

Stewart has considered closing his restaurants, including 717 South and Ava in South Tampa.

“I think about it every minute to be honest with you,” he said, “but if I could save one person’s job or ten people’s jobs.”

So he is staying open, with the dining room off limits and the bar closed since earlier in the week.

“(Friday) night was the first night we went from very nice fine dining restaurant to takeout only and everybody showed up,” he said, telling 8 On Your Side he gets emotional about the show of support from customers.

Stewart is also doing deliveries, like during the FaceTime call with 8 On Your Side.

“We are doing everything we can to survive,” he said, “whether it is one general manager doing takeout orders and I’m driving food around.”

A “stay at home order” is not in place Sunday, but Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said Saturday afternoon she anticipates one soon either in the area or statewide.

“If there is a “stay at home (order),” gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies all of that will remain open so there’s not need for anyone to panic,” Mayor Castor said.

Stewart said he’s encouraged other states are exempting restaurants, while telling most businesses to temporarily shut down.

“We are prepared to weather the storm and do everything possible we can,” Stewart said.

The Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group meets Monday at 1:30 p.m. If there is no statewide stay at home order by then, Mayor Castor said the group could move to approve one for Hillsborough County.  


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