Above: Listen to a version of this story that aired on WUFT-FM.
Gainesville bars were able to reopen at 50% on Sept. 14, allowing bars in the area to reopen for the first time since June.
Reopening has many owners — including Erik Zika, who owns White Buffalo, The Range and OAK restaurant in downtown Gainesville — extremely cautious with their measures to ensure the safety of their customers.
“Strict cleaning procedures are implemented by our staff. All staff must wear masks, and we will continue to do this even if the rule was lifted in Alachua county,” Zika said. “We have all of our tables six feet apart so customers can feel safe with appropriate social distancing measures. We also require all customers to enter with a mask and take a temperature screening at the door.”
Though open, bars will look different. Alachua County leaders are strictly enforcing the governor’s order that bars should only serve seated patrons — meaning no dancing or walking around the premises will be permitted.
“Just not being able to walk around is the biggest difference. That’s what makes restaurants and bars fun. People like to feel free and be social, so we are patiently waiting until those days return,” the bar owner said.
Some people are willing to adapt to the new measure. University of Florida student Manuela Longas is willing to go out despite the changes in order to spend time with friends.
“I will be going out today in order to change plans, change scenery and do something different than staying at home like I have been doing this whole time,” Longas said.
Jean Garcia, an international student at UF, said she doesn’t feel the same about going out.
“I don’t think it is reasonable. And my argument is that if you catch COVID, you are putting everyone at risk. Everyone you know and everyone you don’t know,” Garcia said.
After the last reopening of bars, the rapid increase in case count forced them to shut back down shortly after in June. This is the biggest step the state has taken to reopen since. This time around, bar owners, party organizers and others are hoping to remain in business.
Correction appended: A previous version of this story stated that it was Alachua County, not the governor, that decided to allow only seated patrons. It was the governor’s decision that the county is now enforcing.