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Coronavirus in Florida

‘We are over this’: Florida restaurant says they will reopen dining room despite public outrage

It’s not a joke, apparently.

As Florida continues to struggle with rising coronavirus cases and the business closures due to the pandemic, one Windermere restaurant said in a now-deleted Facebook post that they plan to reopen their dining room on Friday, May 1.

“33 & Melt will be reopening for dine-in guests May 1,” wrote the restaurant. “Not sure about you, but we are over this.”

Orange County’s Mandatory Safer at Home Order ended April 9, when Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ executive order went into effect. That order closed restaurant dining rooms until April 30. It also limits gatherings to no more than 10 persons and requires restaurants to limit customer entry to 50 percent of their capacity.

“Seating must be staggered and limited to ensure seated parties are separated by a distance of at least six feet, in accordance with CDC guidelines,” says the order.

Public health officials are worried that growing pressure to reopen businesses will reverse efforts to slow the disease’s spread, and may even lead to a second wave. Last weekend, now in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, while others never completely closed.

Currently, there are 27,127 active COVID-19 cases in Florida, with 867 deaths. Windermere is located in Orange County, which has had 1,235 cases and 27 deaths (as of Tuesday). That could explain the negative reactions by customers and others to the post.

“I used to like going there with my family,” wrote Carrie Smith. “Not sure what the owner is thinking right now but just have to believe that she is having a temporary lapse in judgment due to severe stress.”

Others noted that the restaurant’s menu could be recreated more safely at home.” If anyone requires a recipe for the elusive and complicated grilled cheese, I’m happy to share mine,” wrote Steven Tarca.

“Is this a joke?” asked Leisa Brown. “There’s an executive order (separate from the stay at home order) that ends May 8th. If you open before that, you are not only irresponsible and disrespectful, but also breaking the law. You lost us as return customers and I hope you reconsider your decision and rude comments if you want to remain a part of this community.”

It’s not a joke, apparently. One customer named Debbie Ann wrote:

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We are huge fans of your establishment but your blatant disregard for the health and safety of the community makes me question if we can continue to be patrons. There has been no state or county announcements that dine-in will be reopened on May 1 and your decision is reckless and could cost someone, even you, their lives. So many people are immunocompromised and you and your customers could devastate a family. I’m sorry, but this is just plain selfish and wrong. It saddens me, but we won’t be back if you follow through with this horrible decision.

To which 33 & Melt responded, “sorry you feel that way Debbie and we for sure have appreciated your patronage. But, we are reopening.”

On a Facebook share about this post, Orlando Weekly reader Manuel Lombard added this image below, a parody of the Gadsen “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

Maybe we’ll see this flag at one of this week’s “Operation: Reopen Florida” protests.

We reached out to 33 & Melt and will update this post when they respond.

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This article was first published on Orlando Weekly.

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