‘We like to think of it as life over money’ Cortez restaurant chooses not to reopen next week


CORTEZ, Fla. (WFLA) – Life in Manatee County is slowly shifting toward a new normal. Public beaches are set to reopen Monday with restricted parking. Restaurant owners are also allowed to open back up their dining rooms Monday, but only at 25-percent capacity.

Many business owners are looking forward to reopen, while others are hesitant and sticking to take-out orders only.

Bob Slicker is the general manager and part-owner of Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar in Cortez. He has no plans to reopen his dining areas next week.

With Manatee County leading Tampa Bay in COVID-19 deaths, he feels it is too soon.

“Manatee County is the fourth-worst in the state of Florida. We don’t want to be part of the problem, we want to be part of the solution,” said Slicker. “We are really concerned about our team and the people that we serve,” he continued.

The restaurant owner feels there are too many uncertainties. “We don’t know how to serve yet to where our servers, our dishwashers and our cooks are not put at risk,” said Slicker.

Swordfish Grill employs 74 people. Currently, only six are working at the restaurant.

“We like to think of it as life over money. We can build another restaurant, we can build another house, but can’t get that team member back if we lose them,” said Slicker.

Manatee County Commissioner Stephen Jonsson represents the Cortez area. He tells 8 On Your Side he respects Slicker’s decision to remain closed for now.

“Unfortunately, the test results do seem to kind of keep rising, but they are rising at a slower rate statistically, so that is a good thing. This is an unprecedented time to try to figure this all out, but I think at least trying to lean into opening some of these businesses, to let these poor small business people get back in the game is a good thing,” said the commissioner.

Swordfish Grill has been selling groceries along with serving take-out orders. Slicker tells 8 On Your Side the restaurant has been providing employees groceries free of charge to help them get through this difficult time.

A few days ago, the restaurant received a $25,000 donation. It’s money they plan to use to help support its staff and others community restaurant workers.

“We are putting it through the Blessing Bags Project. It is for the Florida Tourist Relief Fund and it’s just to help service industry employees in Cortez and Anna Maria Island,” said Slicker.

Anyone interested can find more information here.

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