May 10, 2020

Reopened businesses go the extra distance to safely serve clientele

5.7 min read| Published On: May 10th, 2020|

By Akers Editorial

Reopened businesses go the extra distance to safely serve clientele

5.7 min read| Published On: May 10th, 2020|

The staff at the Village Institute of Plastic Surgery. // Archive photos

When the Village Institute of Plastic Surgery reopens Monday, May 11, it won’t be on a whim. Dr. Danny J. Soares, the institute’s medical director, has done his homework on necessary steps to take to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The doctor studied clinics around the country and created a video outlining some of the steps they implemented.

“Our approach has been, we want something where we can actually do everything to limit the risk to patients without the patient having to do anything,” says Dr. Soares, who is a board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

The institute, at 607 County Road 466A in Fruitland Park, essentially has been closed for two months. Staff will perform only minor procedures initially while assessing the effects of the state’s Phase 1 reopening on the community.

In establishing precautions, Dr. Soares considered both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. Medical facilities need to have strategies to minimize transmission of the coronavirus from asymptomatic patients, he says.

At his institute, most patients will be screened by phone before they arrive for an appointment. The appointments will be spaced out more than usual to limit the number of patients in the office. There will be no cross-patient contact. When a patient comes in, they will have their temperature checked and then immediately will be isolated in a treatment room or asked to wait in their car until they are able to come in.

Physicians and staff can’t maintain the 6-foot social distancing requirement while examining patients, so staff members will be swabbed multiple times a week to make sure they are not asymptomatic carriers, the doctor says. The institute provides N95 respirator masks to its staff, and also upgraded the office ventilation system to purify the air.

But Dr. Soares cautions that there are gray areas in some of the state guidelines for reopening.

“I guess what needs to happen is that each business has to take some responsibility for what they’re going to do to protect their clientele,” he says.

Dr. Soares emphasizes that his video is not intended to be an endorsement of any one set of measures. Each clinic needs to address its own procedures and risks. See the video here:

Many other businesses across Lake County eagerly reopened their doors in the past week while taking extra precautions to make sure customers and employees are safe amid the coronavirus outbreak.

At the Mount Dora Marketplace, about 14 eating establishments and 12-14 shops were set to reopen starting Friday, May 8. The marketplace, at 100 E. 4th Ave., also has a garden patio that is open for outdoor dining.

“They are so excited to get back in business. It’s really gratifying,” says Peter Burgess, who co-owns the Marketplace with Michael Ross.

Tables and chairs have been spaced out to accommodate social distancing guidelines, and extra cleaning and sanitizing has been done in the eating areas, restrooms and entrances, Peter says. To comply with the 25 percent capacity limits ordered by the state, vendors are being advised to allow only one customer at a time in their relatively small spaces. The Marketplace owners also encourage the use of face masks by vendors and customers.

The Marketplace, which opened in October 2019, didn’t shut down entirely, as a couple of vendors offered takeout food. Peter and Michael offered vendors an installment plan to pay April and May rent.

“To my knowledge, we’re the only marketplace that’s done that,” Peter says. “That’s been a great help towards keeping our vendors alive and happy.”

He sounded remarkably optimistic about how the Marketplace weathered the shutdown and how vendors will bounce back.

“The goal of the whole Marketplace is to allow small, independent vendors an opportunity to be located and open a shop in downtown, the main street in Mount Dora,” he says. “It’s a very exciting time for us to be opening up the Marketplace again for everyone.”


Cousin Vinnie’s Family Sports Restaurant in Leesburg.

Lake County restaurateurs did not feel very lucky when Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on St. Patrick’s Day that restaurants must close their dining rooms.

One restaurant owner, though, found a tiny silver lining in the coronavirus.

Vinnie Vittoria, owner of Cousin Vinnie’s Family Sports Restaurant, figured the best way to transition from a bustling dining business to curbside carryout was to remodel and clean his business at 10700 U.S. Highway 441, Suite 101, in Leesburg.

“Those are things I’ve been wanting to do for years but never did because I didn’t want to close the restaurant down,” he says. “I told my staff I’d keep paying them if they helped me rip the restaurant apart and then fix it up.”

They started by taking all the doors outside and sanding and refinishing them. Then, they added new drop-ceiling panels and replaced the insulation. Following that, a friend of Vinnie’s who owns a sanitation company came to the restaurant and used a machine that deodorizes, disinfects and kills airborne particles.

“He steamed every inch of the restaurant using no chemicals,” Vinnie says.

On the exterior, Vinnie noticed walls covered with cobwebs, dead mosquitoes and grease. He had them power-washed, and now they are spotless.

“We even cleaned all of our sports memorabilia,” he says. “The restaurant looks and feels cleaner than it did when I opened it 12 years ago. We went above and beyond to keep our employees and patrons safe.”

He also changed some policies. Diners will be seated at an empty table devoid of menus, napkin dispensers and salt and pepper shakers. A waiter will hand customers a paper menu that they can take home, and all drinks will be served in disposable 32-ounce paper cups. Food will be served on a paper plate with stackable napkins.

“Once a customer leaves the table, everything will be thrown in the trash,” Vinnie says. “Then we’ll sanitize the table, and the next customer sits.”

Bar/restaurants have been some of the hardest-hit businesses because of restrictions on large gatherings of people.

Simone Waddell, co-owner with Sue Sidoti of the Sunny Pint in Wildwood, says that they have made changes to keep both their customers and their employees safe. The craft beer haven reopened Tuesday at 4110 E. State Road 44 in Freedom Plaza in time to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

The Sunny Pint in Wildwood is no longer empty.

“We’ve removed a bunch of tables and we have 25 percent capacity. We’ve changed up our flow a little bit just so that we can make sure that people have enough space and all that,” Simone says. “We have lines on the floor (by the walk-up bar) that designate 6 feet apart to help people figure out what that looks like. Most people have been very respectful of other people’s space, and if they see people at the bar, they can wait on the other side of our community table, which is shut down right now.”

While people are definitely happy to finally be able to go out, Simone says that most people are still tentative and want to make sure that they’re following the rules.

“I think there are mixed feelings about us having to wear masks. Some people are finding that difficult or they’re not sure if they should be wearing a mask. We’re just kind of playing it by ear and trying to be respectful of people’s space. But I’ll tell you, we can’t keep at 25 percent for a long period of time,” she says.

In downtown Leesburg, a red-and-white “Open” sign greets shoppers at Doggibags, a women’s boutique at 601 W. Main St. Business has been quiet, however, since the retail shop was allowed to reopen Monday, May 4.

“People are coming in slowly. I really haven’t advertised that we’re open, so that’s how we are handling restrictions of not having too many people, because the store is small,” owner Dell Ross says.

But she’s not complaining about seeing only one or two customers at a time.

“Some business is better than no business,” Dell says.

The shop which has been in business since the mid-1980s, carries colorful women’s clothing, jewelry, handbags and accessories.

Dell says she was pleased to use Gov. DeSantis’ stay-at-home orders in April to clean and organize her store.

She and her employees believe that when more people are allowed to dine inside downtown restaurants, Main Street will be busy again and more shoppers will come to Doggibags.

“Even though business has been quiet, we know people are on their way,” Dell says.


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