If you felt a little confused by the recent change in mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you aren’t the only one. Restaurants and bars were thrown for a loop too.
The CDC said last week that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely stop wearing masks in most outdoor and indoor environments. The announcement came as a surprise to many in the public health community and sent businesses scrambling to respond.
Swirlery Wine Bar in Orlando’s SoDo District dropped its mandatory mask requirement for customers and staff immediately after the new guidance was announced. Other local wine businesses are loosening restrictions as well, though some are proceeding a bit more slowly.
“With the new guidance, I think the pushback from customers will grow,” said Tim Varan, owner of Tim’s Wine Market.
He says guests have been largely accepting of the mandatory mask policy at his Orange Avenue location so far; but on Tuesday, the store moved to a mask-optional stance for customers.
“Why fight about it,” he said.
The policy will extend to staff as well after June 1, when Varan says all employees at the shop will be fully vaccinated – a fact he’ll share via a sign on the door.
Digress Wine in College Park is also relaxing the rules a bit.
“Prior to the CDC announcement, we were maintaining a strict mask-unless-seated policy,” said owner Rob Chase.
He’s still encouraging customers to wear masks, and employees are still masking up themselves, but he’s no longer strictly enforcing face coverings for guests.
The Parkview in Winter Park had a similarly strict mask policy until last week. In response to the CDC announcement, new signage now reads “masks required unless fully vaccinated.” The business is relying on guests to be honest about their status.
“We are not asking to see vaccination cards,” said General Manager Kristen Flood. “Even if we wanted to, we are understaffed and cannot take that on right now.”
Staff at The Parkview will continue to wear masks for now, although owner Matt Coltrin says that may change down the road, as more of his employees get vaccinated.
Some capacity limits remain
“We are continuing to limit seating inside the dining room,” said Coltrin, “but this has as much to do with staffing issues as it does with COVID precautions. The truth is, our largest hurdle returning to normalcy now is finding people that are willing to work.”
Capacity limits remain at Luisa’s Cellar in downtown Sanford too, where 50% is still the cap.
“I don’t foresee changing that in the near future,” said co-owner Yellymary Montalvo, who has health conditions that have prevented her from being vaccinated so far.
She does plan to return to full capacity for her popular tasting events, though.
Masks have been a request rather than a requirement for a while at Luisa’s, but Montalvo says her staff will continue to wear masks, partly out of respect for others like her who are unable to get the vaccine.
“I’ll give it a few more weeks and see what happens,” she said.
More than one business owner used the word “limbo” to describe the position they feel the new CDC guidance has put them in. But after more than a year of uncertainty, many report their customers are going with the flow and respecting their changing rules.
“I’m seeing guests continue to wear masks when they walk through the restaurant or when we approach the table,” said The Parkview’s Kristen Flood. “It’s nothing short of heartwarming when people show they care in this way.”
She also echoed many of her colleagues around the area when she said it’s nice just to see familiar faces finally coming back to their establishments.
“We are seeing a number of guests return after a year of quarantine,” she said. “People are feeling safe [after being] vaccinated and are happy to start venturing out again.”