Businesses shift plans in virus crisis, all dining rooms close

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The Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at the Manatee Public Beach opened behind closed gates March 20, but the restaurant closed layer that day. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

The situation was fluid all week, like Drano, for some island businesses.

Owners, managers and operators at retail stores and restaurants were kept busy adjusting daily to changing guidelines and mandates to curb the spread of COVID-19, but still meet customer’s needs and maintain business and staff income.

To curb the spread of the disease, the governor first ordered restaurants to serve customers at 50% building occupancy, with 6 feet between patrons, while at the same time ordering bars and nightclubs to shutter for 30 days. Events and gatherings were restricted to 50, then 10 people.

March 20, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered restaurants across the state to cease dine-in service.

A Manatee County declaration closed the island’s public beaches until further notice on March 20.

“This is not a step that we take lightly,” county administrator Cheri Coryea said in a news release. “But it is a step in the public’s best interest.”

The news release said enforcement of the closure would be left to the island communities, but public parking lots were closed to diminish crowds

The news release also stated the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at Manatee Public Beach and the Coquina Beach Cafe would close.

Tanner Enoch, who manages both cafes, told The Islander March 21 that he tried to keep the cafes open and operate at 50%, but closed on the governor’s order to cease serving in dining rooms.

Other island eateries also were adjusting their plans.

Judy Owens owns and operates Cupcake Delights at the Anna Maria Island Centre shopping plaza at 3324 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach. She had already replaced in-house service with carryout, with orders delivered by request to the curb to customers in their cars. Peach’s Restaurant in the same plaza at 3240 E. Bay Drive closed indefinitely, while Paradise Cafe and Bagels at 3210 E. Bay Drive in the plaza was offering takeout.

Likewise, Hurricane Hanks, 5346 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, began promoting carryout and delivery at the restaurant and its liquor store.

At Minnie’s Beach Cafe, 5300 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, owners Kathy Smart and Mary Daub were carrying orders to vehicles and hoping to provide delivery by March 23. The cafe also was offering a menu of kids items that were free for the asking.

Sean Murphy said the doors were locked at 5 p.m. March 17 at his cocktail bar, The Doctor’s Office, 5312 Holmes Blvd., Holmes Beach, per DeSantis’ order.

“I’ll be moving staff from there to our other restaurants, Beach Bistro and Eat Here, for other duties,” Murphy said.

Both the bistro and Eat Here were limiting guests in the dining rooms and offering takeout and delivery from their menus, but service in the dining rooms ended with the March 20 order.

Bobby Tingler, who has owned the Anchor Inn, 3007 Gulf Drive, Holmes Drive, for 26 years, said he “absolutely” closed his doors.

“I got a $300,000 liquor license I can’t lose,” he said.

Tingler said he was helping his staff during the closure.

In Bradenton Beach, Island Time Bar and Grill and the Anna Maria Oyster Bar were taking to-go orders and Blue Marlin announced it would close.

Roque Pastorius, who owns the Island Monkey Bus, a tips-only transportation alternative, told The Islander March 18 he cut his staff due to diminished ridership. People were definitely staying put on the island, he said.

“The virus has definitely affected us in a negative way,” he said. “People would normally be here in droves. With so many cancellations, no one is around.”

Island businesses announcing closures through March include Salon Salon of AMI, the Artists’ Guild Gallery, Island Gallery West, the French Table and Tide and Moon Jewelry on the Historic Bridge Street Pier, among others.

Now, with the beaches “closed” and many folks sheltering-in-place, Publix Super Market may be the busiest spot on the island. The company changed its hours to 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and is reserving 7-8 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays for shoppers 65 and older.


Where to turn?

The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce continued through the week of March 16 with frequent posts about business closures, disaster loans for small businesses and programs to assist with recovery.

The chamber also was posting information relevant to layoffs and unemployment due to COVID-19.

AMI chamber president Terri Kinder assured people the chamber was in for the long haul during the crisis.

“We are here in the office until we are told we can’t be,” she said March 20.

Kinder said the chamber received hundreds of calls over the past several days from both local business owners and visitors about vacation bookings — openings for people still looking for a place to wait out the crisis and cancellations due to fears of travel, as well as calls from people curious about the status of life on the island.

“We are staying fully staffed to handle the volume,” she said, adding that she recommended people get reliable information from sources they trust, such as the chamber.