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East County Wednesday, May 13, 2020 4 months ago

Bartenders' only tip: Hang tough in Lakewood Ranch

Manatee County bars, gyms wait while other businesses bring in revenue.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

It’s been quiet at Naughty Monk Brewery. 

Tables are pushed aside. Barstools are stacked, and there’s not much more going on than the occasional pickup order of growlers to-go or cans of beer.

The microbrewery has been closed since March 17 as part of Florida’s state coronavirus shutdown. It has not been allowed to reopen, per state guidelines.

“It’s 10-15% of my normal business,” Naughty Monk owner Joe Eibler said. “It’s not good. If we don’t open up this month, it’s going to be tight next month.”

Eibler said he’s not sure how long the business can sustain itself. 

His business, along with gyms, salons and spas, were not included in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ coronavirus Phase 1 re-opening plan, which started May 4. Nail and hair salons were allowed to open May 11 but Phase 2, which would open gyms and bars, has yet to begin. 

Some business owners, like Eibler, who were been forced to stay closed, say they feel unfairly singled out and should be allowed to reopen.

“I don’t even know why they shut us down,” Eibler said. “They should have given us the guidelines and let the businesses stay open. It seems like it was an indiscriminate penalty on some businesses and not other businesses.”

“We’re are one of the most sanitized and disinfected places you can go to, far better than (grocery stores),” he said. “We’ve got plenty of space. Next door (at the nail salon), they’re dipping hands and nails. There’s going to be people gathering there in close proximity. There’s no reason we should not be open.”

Fortunately, Eibler’s landlord has allowed rent payments for April and May to be deferred to the end of his five-year lease, which ends November 2021. That gives him until January 2022 to make up the rent. He has applied for the Payroll Protection Program but still has not been approved.

Eibler said his brewmasters are still at work — even creating some new craft sodas and root beer — but he is not sure when bartenders will be able to come back. Without tips, they’re better off financially collecting unemployment. 

He said he’s ready to reopen and his 9,000-square-foot facility at 2507 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., has plenty of room for social distancing.  

Meanwhile, salon owners who were disappointed not to be open at the start of Phase I, are back in business.

Yellow Strawberry Salon co-owners Caroline and Desmond Behan said they have been closed since March 23, before salon closures were mandated. Twenty-two stylists will go back to work May 15 with modified schedules. They will go from working 32 to 40 hours per week to working three 10-hour shifts per week. The reduced hours and new scheduling format will allow all employees to come back to work while working within social distancing guidelines. 

The Behans have added clear plastic shields at the front desk and between each station used for shampooing a customer’s hair. They

Yellow Strawberry Salon owners Caroline and Desmond Behan have modified employee hours to three 10-hour shifts to help ensure proper social distancing of customers.

also will begin each appointment by having customers wait in their vehicles until their appointments,  taking customer temperatures, asking them to sanitize their hands and requiring them to wear facial masks. Customers will be spaced at every other chair, effectively reducing capacity by 50%. Stylists also will wear masks.

“We need to move forward with a big emphasis on safety for our team,” Caroline Behan said. 

Sirius Day Spa Karen Medford said she’s grateful to begin servicing customers with hair and nail services, however the state guidelines are unclear as to how a spa like hers, which also provides massage therapy and facial services, is supposed to operate.  She said other nail salons who offer massages, for example, have opened both services, although massage has not specifically been addressed by DeSantis.

Medford reopened her Lakewood Ranch location May 11, but delayed the University Town Center location opening to May 13 due to logistics. New protocols include having customers wear masks, requiring temperature checks and using disposable products when possible.

Lakewood Ranch area gyms and fitness centers who spoke with the Observer said they’ve shifted to virtual classes to weather the closures. 

Nikki Roenicke, owner of Barre3 Lakewood Ranch, had thought closures would be only two weeks when she voluntarily closed March 17.  She said the majority of customers have kept up their memberships and used online classes to continue participating. Because of that, she’s been able to cover her business expenses.

“Our clientele has been so gracious and so willing to work with us,” Roenicke said. 

Whenever the studio reopens, she plans to limit class size from 26 to 13 to accommodate social distancing guidelines, and also to remove many of the props, such as core balls and resistance bands, typically used for classes. Classes will be pushed back by 30 minutes to allow more cleaning between classes.

Victoria Van Dine, co-owner of X30 Fit, normally offers 11 sessions of 30-minute high-interval training a day in groups. Trainers now have pre-recorded workouts so group lessons can continue via Zoom meetings. The videos air on Zoom, and the trainer is in attendance, still offering guidance on form or answering questions from participants.

Van Dine said memberships have dropped by about 20% but she’s hopeful members will come back. X30 plans to make changes, at least initially by reducing class sizes, and using all-body exercises rather than equipment that can be shared. 

LA Fitness, Orange Theory Fitness and Crunch Fitness did not respond to inquiries about plans for reopening.

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