Orlando area wine bars maintain capacity limits despite Florida’s Phase 3 reopening

Several Central Florida wine bars and wine-focused restaurants will continue to limit indoor capacity to 50%, despite Governor Ron DeSantis lifting all coronavirus restrictions on their establishments yesterday afternoon.

A few hours after the governor’s announcement that Florida would move to Phase 3 of its reopening plan, Mary Montalvo-Weyer, co-owner of Luisa’s Cellar in Sanford, posted a video on social media informing patrons that nothing would change at her business.

Mary Montalvo-Weyer of Lusia’s Cellar in Sanford updates patrons her on plans following Gov. DeSantis’s Phase 3 announcement.

“We talked about it,” she said in the video, “and we decided that what is best for us and for you is [to] keep 50% capacity like we were doing the whole time. We’re gonna keep on doing social distancing, [and] all of us are gonna keep on wearing our masks.”

“I don’t think it’s the right time to go back into a full-blown restaurant capacity,” she told her followers.

Montalvo-Weyer says Luisa’s Cellar is “blessed with a lot of square footage,” so she can seat plenty of patrons while maintaining social distance, but the choice to continue to limit her onsite business was still complicated.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision morally,” she said today, “but it was financially.”

Montalvo-Weyer has a medical condition that could put her at a higher risk for repercussions from COVID-19. But other wine bar owners in the area are making the same types of calls.

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Episode 27: Open

Florida’s bars reopened for service this week, almost six months after the state first banned onsite alcohol consumption in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19. And after six months of unemployment, one of our regular guests on UnWineding is finally back to work. In this penultimate episode of Season One, the celebration is tempered by concern about a possible second wave but buoyed by a sense of relief, optimism, and gratitude.

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Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding, Amy Tardif for editorial guidance, and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Episode 26: Melissa on Wine

Two important things happened in Florida’s wine world this week. The state announced it’s lifting the ban on alcohol service at bars, almost six months after the original restrictions were imposed … and UnWineding guest Melissa McAvoy celebrated five years since the grand opening of her Orlando wine bar, Swirlery.

We’ll explore the first development in next week’s episode; this week, I share my conversation with Melissa about her journey into the world of wine. She once saw the hospitality business as the means to very different end, she says, but it was wine that changed her mind.

Melissa McAvoy, co-owner of Swirlery Wine Bar

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Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding, Amy Tardif for editorial guidance, and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Florida bars can serve onsite again starting Monday – Orlando wine bars relieved

Drinks can start flowing again in Florida’s bars at 12:01am Monday, September 14 — almost six months to the day after the state first banned onsite alcohol service at bars, pubs, and nightclubs. 

“Obviously, I’m elated,” said Rob Chase, owner of Digress Wine in Orlando’s College Park neighborhood, after Thursday night’s announcement on Twitter from Department of Business & Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears.

“There will of course be a lingering fear of yet another shutdown, but it also seems highly unlikely that the state would go for Round Three,” Chase said in an email.

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Episode 25: Jobs for Labor Day

COVID-19 cases are still high in Florida, but the daily increases have dropped significantly from their massive spikes in June and July. Hospitality businesses are steadily reopening, and industry workers are relieved they’re starting to find employment again, just in time for Labor Day. There’s still a ban on alcohol service at bars, but many are getting around the restrictions by launching food service, and some are resuming onsite tastings. While things are by no means back to normal, there’s a sense of cautious optimism in the air.

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Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding, Amy Tardif for editorial guidance, and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Episode 24: Christina Peebles on Wine

Orlando sommelier, bartender, and server Christina Peebles has been in the service industry for fifteen years. Over the past five months, we’ve heard about the jobs she lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, her struggles with unemployment, and even a COVID health scare in her own family.

But this week, she talks about her journey in the wine industry – from having her first glass of wine while working for one of Orlando’s most colorful characters … to entering the world of fine dining and scrambling to build her wine knowledge … to dealing with customers who’d rather show off their knowledge than take advice from a young female somm.

Christina Peebles, Orlando sommelier, bartender, and server

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Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding, Amy Tardif for editorial guidance, and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Edible Orlando Highlights Local Wine Community Innovations in the Face of COVID-19

My latest column for Edible Orlando is all about the spirit of innovation Central Florida’s wine community has shown in the face of the adversity brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

From virtual tastings to webinars to mystery cases, local wine businesses have pulled out all the creative stops to continue serving their customers and keep themselves afloat.

Read the full story here.

Episode 23: Crawling Back

Some Florida bar owners are turning to food licenses to get around a ban on alcohol service that has been in place almost continuously since mid-March, but business is slow to return. With bars still effectively shut down and more restaurants closing for good, prospects for the state’s food and wine professionals is still shaky at best.

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Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding, Amy Tardif for editorial guidance, and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Episode 22: Rob Talks Wine

 

UnWineding’s editorial advisor Amy Tardif likes to joke that the podcast’s dirty little secret is that it’s not really about wine. Indeed, many of UnWineding’s stories transcend the wine industry, reflecting the struggles of so many people trying to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and everything else that’s been going on these past four and a half months.

This week, we take a step back and talk about wine. I asked the UnWineding trio about their journeys in the wine industry, and this episode is the first of those occasional conversations, with Rob Chase of Digress Wine in Orlando’s College Park Neighborhood.

Rob Digress 040320
Rob Chase, owner of Digress Wine in Orlando’s College Park neighborhood

 

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Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding, Amy Tardif for editorial guidance, and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Swirlery Wine Bar Reopens Friday with New Food License

Swirlery Wine Bar in Orlando’s SoDo District will reopen for service on Friday, August 14, after receiving a permanent food license from the state of Florida.

Like all Florida bars, coronavirus restrictions have prevented Swirlery from serving drinks for almost five months, with the exception of a brief reopening in early June. The state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation reinstated the alcohol service ban after just two weeks, when Florida saw huge spikes in new COVID-19 cases, with many outbreaks tied to bars that failed to follow social distancing rules.

Swirlery has relied on retail wine sales to stay afloat so far, but co-owner Melissa McAvoy says that was never a long term solution, since about 80% of her business comes from onsite consumption.

“I just don’t know how long we’re gonna go on this rollercoaster of ‘let’s open and close bars,’” she told the UnWineding podcast in mid-July. “This is like survival now.”

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