Law enforcement, businesses prepare for different kind of Memorial Day weekend

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission officials will be providing extra patrols to Tampa Bay waters this holiday weekend, but it will look different than years before.

“We wear masks while we’re interacting with the public. FWC is encouraging boaters to still social distance while they’re on the water,” said Officer Bryce Phillippi.

Boaters have been keeping a social distance on bodies of water, including the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes for months now.

But now, with restrictions loosening almost daily, some think people will be coming out this weekend more than ever.

“There’s going to be people that only boat a few times a year and they’re all going to be out here trying to enjoy the sun, trying to get out of the house after the COVID-19 quarantine that we’ve had for what, 3 months now,” said Scott Ellis of Auburndale, who was trying out his new boat with his son.

“FWC is encouraging boaters to still social distance while they’re on the water,” said Officer Phillippi.

Things will look different on land, too.

“We have bartenders here wearing masks and gloves,” said Joseph Dunham, the owner of Grove Roots Brewing Co.

Dunham was pleased to learn this week that, because of the food truck that serves food on his property, he was able to reopen.

“We’re safe. We’re doing every protocol. We’re wiping down every table and seat between uses,” said Dunham.

There are no bar stools and customers must be seated. No congregation allowed.

“I’m curious how this weekend’s going to be because we’re going to limit capacity pretty heavily. Once every seat’s taken, no one else is allowed inside,” said Dunham.

Officials warn against mixing the brewery and the boating, at least not if you’re operating the boat.

According to FWC, 32 percent of fatal boating crashes last year involved operations under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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