Villages restauranteurs have taken swift action to protect their customers as fears about the Coronavirus continue to sweep across Florida’s Friendliest Hometown and the tri-county area.
Gina Buell, owner of both City Fire restaurants in The Villages, and her daughter, Elena, were busy wiping down the popular eatery’s bars Friday afternoon as their customers took turns using free hand sanitizer provided for them. Buell said employees thoroughly clean the outside bar every 20 minutes and the inside bar every half hour. She said high-traffic areas such as door handles and tables constantly are being cleaned and sanitized, as well as all of the equipment in the kitchen area.
“When this virus started making headlines, we took action,” Buell said, as vendors outside her restaurant broke down their tents after The Villages canceled the St. Patrick’s Day celebration and all town square entertainment for the foreseeable future. “We have added a staff member in each restaurant per shift who is dedicated to continuously circulating the restaurant wiping and sanitizing all high-traffic areas.”
Buell said City Fire has added curbside service for its customers who want to order meals and take them home. Those interested in that service can call the Lake Sumter Landing restaurant at (352) 205-7169 and the Brownwood location at (352) 561-2078. Buell said she’s also working with her insurance carrier to be able to provide free delivery service for customers who need it.
“People have to eat and we just need to be a good corporate citizen,” she said. “They can order anything they want and we will walk it right out to their car.”
Buell got somewhat emotional when talking about what her customers mean to her, her husband Mike and their entire staff. She said doing everything possible to keep them safe and healthy is a top priority.
“We have a lot of families counting on us,” she said quietly. “My guests are my people.”
Meanwhile, Allen Musikantow, the 80-year-old owner/operator of the Cody’s Original Roadhouse restaurants located in Lake Sumter Landing, Brownwood and the Mulberry Plaza, said the health and safety of his customers is paramount.
“Our kitchens are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized each evening, as well as the tables and chairs in our dining areas each and every day,” he said in a statement, adding that as a senior citizen himself he understands the threat from COVID-19 to those enjoying their retirement years in The Villages. “This will pass like most things, but I wanted you to know that I care and value your business and your trust in us to maintain a safe and healthy place to enjoy your senior years.”
Fred Karimipour, whose FMK Restaurant Group owns six popular eateries in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown, said he is moving forward with business as usual for his customers, which means constant cleaning and sanitizing of various surfaces and equipment in the restaurants. He added that each of his establishments – Chop House at Lake Sumter, Evans Prairie Country Club, Belle Glade Country Club, Bonifay Country Club, Orange Blossom Hills Country Club and Scooples Ice Cream Parlor – already are audited by EcoSure, a third-party company that provides on-site food safety assessments, cleanliness, coaching and training to help the staff maintain a standard in providing food service to customers.
Karimipour said it’s an extra step in the daily regiment at his restaurants but “having an outside set of eyes besides the health department’s quarterly inspections on procedures is what helps us keep our high standards for food and customer safety.”
The corporate team at Gator’s Dockside also posted a note on their Villages Facebook page vowing to adhere to strict cleaning and sanitizing practices at both the Spanish Springs and Brownwood locations.
“We are working diligently to take the steps to protect our valued guests and our team,” the statement read in part. “Furthermore, any employee who is sick or that feels sick will not be permitted to work.”
The statement also said both eateries will maintain regular operating hours but will continue to monitor and follow guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.