MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Sitting in his empty Joe’s Stone Crab dining room, fourth-generation owner Steve Sawitz spoke with CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo via Zoom about what it’s been like and what’s to come.

“We didn’t really pivot, we shifted ourselves over to the take away and it was an all hands on deck situation,” Sawitz said.

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Petrillo visited the popular restaurant last October just before this 106th season of Joe’s Stone Crab – a season that will never be forgotten.

For many years, according to Restaurant Business Magazine, Joe’s Stone Crab has been named the highest-grossing independent restaurant in the nation.

Now, with the dining room closed, it’s all about working to keep the always popular Joe’s Take Away operating full steam ahead under strict guidelines and sanitizing standards.

“We have them at the door and delivery service. We had to change and do curbside and the reason we had to do that is because the customers demanded it and they were gracious about it and they were tipping like crazy,” Sawitz said.

He said they did their best to keep as many employees as possible, some who’ve been there 50 years.

“In the main dining room, we had to furlough over 370 people. It was awful. We were fortunate enough to be able to pay them for two weeks of payroll,” Sawitz explained.

Joe’s also delivers stone crabs to anywhere in the U.S. reachable overnight by FedEx. But nothing beats the full-service dining experience that the business is built for.

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“Not even close between takeaway and shipping. We’re not coming close to the numbers that the main dining room would do. The main dining room for lunch and dinner are so powerful, so important to the restaurant,t but we’re not doing those numbers” he said.

Stone crab season is October 15the to May 15 and for over a hundred years the restaurant has closed its doors in summer.

But not this year.

For the first time ever they will remain open for take away all summer.

Despite the hardships now, Sawitz feels optimistic about what happens next for the industry as a whole.

“I think that, over time, they will come back and the demand will be extremely strong,” he said. “For those that do survive the pandemic, I don’t think they’re going to be able to handle all of the business actually, so what I think is going to happen is the places that were closed for a while might reopen, possibly under another name. They possibly could have new funding methods. But here, I will re-open and get everybody back to work.”

Back to delivering impeccable service, the experience that is Joe’s Stone Crab.

“What we do know is that when we do open it has to be Joe’s. It has to feel like Joe’s, it has to have that excitement, verve and the tradition”, Sawitz said.

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For more information about Joe’s Take Away, go to joesstonecrab.com.