FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Broward County entered phase one of re-opening on Monday morning.
Retail shops, restaurants, malls, and nail and hair salons can now operate at 50 percent capacity.
“I couldn’t wait,” said Anne Marie Hanson who was one of the first customers to visit Joe’s Cafe in Fort Lauderdale on Monday. “It’s like going home for dinner on Sunday. I haven’t seen them in three months and they remembered me immediately.”
The restaurant near Southeast 20th Street in Fort Lauderdale has set up a plastic barrier at the register and is only seating customers at every other table to ensure social distancing.
“At this point, you’ve just got to get open,” said Joe’s Cafe owner Steve Pearce. “People are tired of being at home, they just want to get out and this is what we’re here for.”
Restaurants and retail shops have taken a massive hit after being forced to close in March. Many restaurants were forced to survive on take-out only.
“We’re ready to go,” said Bobby Palushaj at The Dandee Donut Factory in Hollywood. “We’re hoping that people come out to support us.”
Broward County’s executive order allows retail shops, restaurants, malls, and salons to open at limited capacity. Masks and social distancing are still required.
There was a disagreement on whether gyms could open Monday morning. Governor Ron Desantis on Friday gave the green light for gyms in the state to open their doors, but Broward and Miami-Dade Counties chose to wait. The City of Fort Lauderdale argued they could open gyms Monday because it is now part of the Governor’s phase one executive order.
“We have a disagreement,” said Broward County Mayor Dale Holness.
The mayor said Fort Lauderdale gyms that opened on Monday morning were technically in violation of the county’s executive order. “Hopefully we can work it out in a way that doesn’t cause any more angst for the people of Broward,” Holness said.
John Larkin, the owner of Upload Fitness, said they’re ready and have instituted state of the art cleaning procedures.
“My staff’s been on payroll the whole time,” Larkin told CBS 4 News, adding that his employees received certification in proper cleaning techniques along with the use of proper chemicals. “They’re been cleaning rigorously, with nobody in there. And this is very exciting, it’s like a restart or a relaunch.”
Holness was one of a handful of customers right on time for their first haircut in months at The Neighborhood Barbershop in Fort Lauderdale. The salon on Northwest 6th Street opened Monday morning for the first time in two months. Gloves and masks are now part of the new uniform for barbers.
“A lot of calls, a lot of appointments,” said employee Lebrentt Jones, whose father runs the barbershop. “We’re just trying to get everything situated and making sure there’s enough time between each client so we have the proper time to sanitize.”
Nightclubs and bars in Broward County are still closed. Holness could not specify whether those would open in phase two or three and stated he would be cautious about that decision.
The city of Fort Lauderdale held a news conference Monday afternoon. The president of the Chamber of Commerce, Dan Lindblade, said they’ve seen businesses close for good but he’s hopeful the economy will pick up where it left off.
“Our economy was cooking,” Lindblade said. “There’s no reason we can’t bring that economy back but we’re gonna have to approach it logically and slowly.”
A big question is how the new rules like mask wearing, social distancing and store capacity will be enforced. The city says code enforcement and police officers will make sure businesses and customers comply.
“Much of it will be on the honor system, let’s face it,” Trantalis said. “We’re not gonna be doing, going into every restaurant, every hour. We’re not gonna be able to post a police officer on every corner. We’re doing no bed checks. This is not what we’re about. We’re not about criminalizing the recovery. We’re all about seeking enforcement of the protocols that keep everyone safe and healthy.”
Trantalis said he believes the city’s efforts to fight COVID-19 were a success. He said in early April they had a 13% positive test rate. He said that’s dipped to below 4 percent over the past two weeks. Trantalis said the city has plenty of testing ability and lots of adequate hospital space.
Trantalis said the beaches will remain shut down until after Memorial Day. He said that’s because Miami-Dade’s beaches are closed and the city doesn’t want people from two counties descending on the beaches here.
“Large crowds from across the area would descend on our beaches,” Trantalis said. “I don’t know how we would guarantee that social distancing and other rules would be followed.”
The mayor said the target date to open beaches in Broward County is May 26th.