Restaurant owners in The Villages were busy closing down their dining rooms Friday afternoon after Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered them to do so.
The executive order came on the day when COVID-19 cases in Florida topped 500 and the death toll rose to 10. It became effective immediately and meant that restaurants across the state must now rely on takeout and delivery services to keep their doors open.
The order also means that no alcohol can be consumed at any restaurants. But it does allow eateries to sell alcohol with food that is picked up or delivered, as long as the customer has an ID proving they are of legal age.
In a community where the standing joke is that the kitchen is the least-used room in the house, the order means life will change drastically for many of the 130,000 residents who call the mega-retirement community home.
Gina Buell, owner of City Fire in Lake Sumter Landing and Brownwood, said they’ve constantly kept their customers in mind during the Coronavirus outbreak and will now shift entirely to a curbside and delivery business. She said they are offering all of their regular menu items, as well as a platter menu that features larger meals for two or four people.
“We are 100 percent making sure we’re taking care of them,” she said of the many Villagers and others in the tri-county area who have frequented her eateries for many years.
Buell said she and her husband, Mike, also are scrambling to help their employees, many of whom have been with them for years. She said they’ve had to lay off some of them and it’s been a very sad time for everyone involved.
“This came on us so fast but we jumped on it from the get-go,” Buell said of efforts they launched to constantly clean and sanitize surfaces at the restaurants when the Coronavirus outbreak first came to light. “It’s unprecedented in the world and things are constantly changing.”
Earlier Friday, all three Cody’s Original Roadhouse restaurants in The Villages temporarily closed their doors in the wake of the outbreak. Owner/operator Allen Musikantow said it was a difficult decision to make but it was in the best interest of his employees and customers.
“There is no precedent for this outbreak,” he said. “We have been using our best judgment on how to continue to operate and follow the mandated procedures as they are issued by the state and federal government.”
On Thursday, two local mainstays in the community also announced they were temporarily shutting down. The Starbucks at U.S. Hwy. 27/441 and Rolling Acres Road closed at 6 p.m. Friday and Billy’s Cafe, a longtime breakfast and lunch eatery on U.S. Hwy. 27/441 in Summerfield, had a sign in its window announcing it will be closed for at least two weeks.