Local bar and restaurant owners react to new rules preventing coronavirus spread


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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — As bars across the state close their doors and restaurants lower to 50 percent capacity, local businesses are working to get their plans in place for the next thirty days.

The order came from Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday morning; by 5pm on Tuesday, bars must close down and restaurants may only operate at half-capacity for thirty days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. 

For small local restaurants like Millies in downtown Panama City, it’s a punch to the gut.

“We have a capacity of 36 people and that is about nine tables for us,” explained Sadie Parmer, a server and manager at Millie’s. “So being at half capacity is really going to put a hurt on us unless people are willing to get things to go.”

In Historic St. Andrews, it’s a temporary halt to a successful season. 

“It was ramping up so nicely,” said Alice Masker, owner of Alice’s on Bayview. “January was strong, February was really strong so we were looking forward to March and the rest of the season.”

Over in Panama City Beach, joints like Patches Pub and Grill are working out the details of scaling back an always busy restaurant.

“I wish they gave us more warning, more time for what they’ve been asking for,” said Vincent Greiner, owner of Patches. “It’s kind of hard to just knee jerk react.”

For all of the businesses we spoke to, their employees remain their top priority. 

For popular local bar chains like Ms. Newby’s, it’s a tough situation to navigate.

“The most troubling aspect is our 48 employees that we employ,” said Lindsey Pickenbaugh, the Director of Operations for Ms. Newby’s. “We are trying to keep our employees employed with as many hours as we as we possibly can.”

At Ms. Newby’s and other bars and restaurants in the area, they hope residents and visitors will continue to support them the best they can during this time, like by ordering to-go orders.

DeSantis has encouraged all restaurants in the state to expand their to-go services during this time.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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