Yes, DeSantis Did Phase 3 EO

Governor Ron DeSantis did on Friday, September 25, 2020 what we knew (or at least we were pretty sure about it) would happen sooner or later. He moved to Phase 3 of reopening, which is virtually a full opening for businesses in the State of Florida. And, along with that he stated that he will not close the State again. Congratulations Governor DeSantis for making the move to return this power back to the people.

And, the EO Says?

The full Executive Order is here. This still allows local municipalities to restrict restaurant capacity if it can be justified, but under no circumstance, the capacity cannot be reduced below 50%. Really, the Governor’s order encourages the local mandates to be lifted and businesses allowed to re-open at full capacity. This Executive Order became effective immediately, September 25, 2020. Now, attention will turn to how businesses return to full-operation since they are not being held back by Governor mandates and restrictions, at least in the State of Florida.

Restaurants, Bars and Lounges

Businesses hit the hardest in this COVID rollercoaster include restaurants, bars and lounges. Yes, the airline industry, entertainment and others have also been hit hard, but full service restaurants, bars and lounges have been hurt. Many closed for good by the time this EO, Phase 3 was issued. The numbers … less than 100% opportunity is not feasible for the long-run, will people go back to pre-COVID quickly? how long?

What About Colleges, Universities and Ripple Effect to Business in College Towns?

Since Colleges and Universities have already set their schedules and protocols in place for the Fall semester, it’s likely that they will not change a lot until the Spring semester. If on-campus attendance does not change until January, it is also likely that the ripple effect to businesses that cater to college students and large college sporting events will continue to suffer for the fall semester. This COVID impact to college towns is being felt across the US as reported in a recent WSJ article here. Professor Joe Calhoun, Economics Professor at FSU recently discussed FSU’s on-campus attendance in this podcast episode. Class attendance is expected to be at 25%, although more students than that are expected to be actually in Tallahassee. Under no scenario will normal, historical college students be in Tallahassee in Fall 2020. Thus, Tallahassee businesses will be negatively impacted, from restaurants and bars to student housing.

What to Expect?

Businesses will continue to adapt as they fully re-open for business. Many have already changed their operating or delivery method. Others have closed because their model is just not tenable in the post-COVID environment. There are many variables in this crazy 2020 year and the COVID hype. How long will it take the public at large to adjust their perception about COVID to align with reality? How long will it take the dining public to return to their favorite pre-COVID restaurant? Or, have the public’s dining habits already changed for good? I expect to see a slow return to pre-COVID dining routines. Most likely, we will continue to see a heavy dose of delivery, curbside service and fast casual dining and a reduction in the full-service, dine in restaurants. The future of bars and lounges is even more uncertain in my opinion. The safest bet is that we will see a return to pre-COVID numbers for bars and lounges in the college towns, but not elsewhere. I do expect retail businesses to return to pre-COVID numbers as people’s fears will subsidize as capacity and mask mandates are relaxed.