On March 25, 2020, UnWineding began following three wine industry professionals in the hospitality capital of Orlando, Florida. Like many of their peers, the COVID-19 pandemic had turned their professional and personal lives upside down. Bars, restaurants, hotels, and theme parks had shut down in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Six months later, Florida’s governor announced bars and restaurants could reopen completely. The pandemic is by no means over, but in this episode, we close Season 1 of the podcast with a look back at what the past six months have meant to our guests.
Season 2 will cast a wider net across Central Florida’s wine community. Follow Orlando Wine Blog on Facebook and Instagram @orlandowineblog for details.
In a move that took many Floridians by surprise, Governor Ron DeSantis has moved the state to Phase 3 of its reopening plan. Most businesses were allowed to reopen at full capacity less than two weeks after bars emerged from a months-long total ban on alcohol service. Not long after the governor’s move, Disney announced it would lay off 28,000 employees, including at least 6,700 at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
We’ll taste and talk about some fun and unusual wines, which are available for pickup now at Swirlery and Digress. Then, we’ll unveil the final episode and look back at the past six months of the podcast in a conversation moderated by WMFE’s Brendan Byrne. All profits will benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, and you can join from anywhere in the world!
You’ll find all the details here and registration links here.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.