Traditionals Cuts, Shaves & Brews in the Eau Gallie Arts District of Melbourne is small, with room for just 50 people, so owners Becca and Rob Polak don’t have the space to add a kitchen.
They were looking into getting a food license, though. Anything to reopen their bar, which — with the exception of a couple of weeks in June — has been closed since March because of state mandates put in place by Gov. Ron DeSantis to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Now we’re going to save the money,” Becca Polak said.
Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, announced Thursday night that bars could reopen Monday.
“We are rescinding amended EO 20-09 from DBPR as of Monday. Starting Monday, all bars will be reopened at 50% occupancy,” Beshears announced on Twitter on Thursday evening.
Polak said she and her husband had talked with neighboring restaurant FM Pizza Oven about parking their food truck in front of Traditionals. That didn’t work out because it would have required having their names on the pizza truck’s food license.
“We just had to kind of suck it up and be closed the whole time,” she said.
She’s hoping to open Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on when she can get her beer order in.
The cutoff time to place orders usually is 4 p.m. on Thursday. “I found out Thursday at 6,” she said.
In downtown Melbourne, Kimberly Dutton said she’ll have to hire new staff, and she’ll only be able to serve 37 customers, but she can’t wait to reopen Foo Bar.
Her bartenders have moved away or found other jobs.
“It’s just a new world six months later,” she said, “but I’m excited. I’m ready to get back to some sort of normalcy.”
Like Polak, she won’t be able to open Monday because she needs to place liquor orders. She’s hoping to bring guests in next Friday.
She’ll have a sanitation station at the entrance and plans to take guests’ temperatures.
She has some outdoor seating and is working on adding a back patio.
“I do think outdoor seating is going to be very important in the future,” she said.
Diana Lyn, who owns Dog and Bone British Pub in Cocoa Village, reopened her bar Aug. 7 after getting a food license and installing a hot dog cart.
“We joked that eating a hot dog makes you immune to the virus,” she said.
Lyn said it’s taking time for business to pick up across Cocoa Village.
“Of course, we’re thrilled that everything is opening,” she said, “but I don’t think it’s the answer to all our prayers, because everybody is still really slow right now. Not everybody has money to spend.”
In reopening, Lyn said she has installed hand sanitizing stations around the bar, her staff is only serving people who are seated, and parties are spaced six feet apart. She hasn’t re-opened the upstairs nightclub.
“My only hope is that the people that aren’t coming out, maybe they’ll feel more comfortable now,” she said. “If the powers that be say it’s OK to open, maybe it will give them confidence to come out.”
Andrew Prince, general manager of Debauchery in downtown Melbourne, also added a small kitchen.
“We’ve always had a restaurant license,” he said. “Obviously after being closed for almost six months, we had to get income coming in again.”
It was time to put the license to use.
“We had to clear out our whole back room to clear up space for a prep table and a freezer,” he said.
Now Debauchery features a small menu that includes meatball subs, hot dogs and appetizers.
“We used to be a smoking bar, but now we serve food, so we’re no longer a smoking bar,” Prince said. “It’s been a welcome change to the business. We’ve kind of reinvented ourselves.”
He hopes the reopening of all bars will bring more people out.
“Downtown kind of operates as a whole,” he said. “It’s got a nightlife atmosphere. People kind of bounce around from place to place. We rely on each other.
“I hope to see the crowds come back once everybody is comfortable and confident they can do so safely.”
At Traditionals, though the bar has been closed, Polak has been cutting hair in the barbershop portion of the business. She said it’s been depressing to lock up in the evening and leave, rather than opening the bar.
They had to cancel the bar’s third anniversary party in March.
“My husband put his entire savings and retirement into building this place,” she said. “We were able to get a grant from the county, so that helped out big time with this month’s rent and bills.”
She’s looking forward to seeing the Traditionals regulars, though at half capacity, that means 25 people at a time. She’s also looking forward to ordering all the great fall beers that are coming out right now. She missed getting to order spring brews.
“I’m pretty upbeat today, because there’s finally a light at the end of our tunnel,” she said Friday morning. “We put a lot of heart and a lot of work into this place. Yesterday was like a weight lifted off of our shoulders.”
Sarajane Sullivan of the Naples Daily News and USA TODAY Network contributed to this report.
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