Local Appetite To Dine At Restaurants

Restaurants were permitted to reopen Monday, by state decree, and they got off to a promising start despite the restrictive dining environment.

Downtown Fernandina Beach Restaurant Pablo's. Photo by Amelia Island Living eMagazine (May 2020).
— Steve’s Marketplace —

Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.

If you thought people would no longer have an appetite to dine at restaurants in the post-coronavirus period, think again.

The answer lies in the crowded parking lots we saw here. And in the reported hour-long wait lines. In other words, many of the 80 local restaurants passed the difficult test with flying colors. Even while the virus still lingers as an unwelcome guest.

You wondered about the prospects of restaurants amid the lingering virus. Restaurants around the state can only offer limited seating right now. And many offer only disposable plastic utensils and paper plates. This following a gut-wrenching shutdown in business operations – due to the virus.

Restaurants were permitted to reopen Monday, by state decree. While some restaurants in other parts of Florida delayed their reopening, Amelia Island establishments seized the opportunity. They had already begun spacing out their inside tables, while increasing their seating outside as permitted.

They were hungry for business to return on our tourist-friendly island. And local residents as well as tourists were eager to take part. From observations and reports, restaurants got off to a promising start despite the restrictive dining environment.

Amelia Island Beaches Reopened

Our beaches also reopened in the past week. With 13 miles of pristine beaches, Amelia Island has the perfect setting for spacing out beachgoers as required. And it has worked perfectly so far.

When the county reopened its section of beaches last Friday, residents were ready. They crowded into Peter’s Point Park, but in an orderly fashion. With deputies overseeing the large crowd, people willingly followed the rules, desperate for sun and the sand.

For more than a month, the beaches had been closed. Local officials obviously felt some pressure to reopen our beaches as counties north and south of us acted first. The county reopened its beaches last Friday, while the city did the same on Monday.

Unlike in neighboring counties, the beaches here opened without onerous restrictions. In other places, the hours of beach use are limited, and beach goers must be moving in some form of exercise. Here, people were swimming and fishing and lounging in the sun. With enough space to spread out as advised.

Like with our dining appetite, residents embraced the beaches – without incident. It’s nice for our lives to resume some normalcy. And to have something to offer tourists, a lifeblood of our economy.

Local officials should be applauded for acting decisively and permitting unbridled beach usage. And they hopefully will work hand-in-hand with tourism-based businesses to allow them to return to full strength.

The shutdown here and elsewhere has taken a hefty toll. It is time to get back to business, and we seem ready and willing. Government now has to take a step back and allow the private sector to do its thing.

And we don’t have to wonder whether the private sector is capable. It is more than capable. As long as government does its part by now stepping back.

Steve Nicklas Financial Advisor
Steve Nicklas

Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor for a major brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns appear regularly in several newspapers in North Florida and South Georgia, and on his website: www.stevenicklasmarketplace.com.  He has also published a book, “All About Money,” consisting of some of his favorite columns over the past 20 years. The book is available at local stores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].