Store owner Mike Ehik, of Celebration Corner, works with his customers, Charles Persi and daughters Chloe and Emma.

VENICE — At the end of the first week since Gov. Ron DeSantis authorized the reopening of restaurants, shoppers and diners were making their way back to Downtown Venice- albeit observing social distancing with some donning masks.

Most, but not all, restaurants employees wore masks, some with gloves.

It was a mixed bag for diners and store customers. About half wore a mask.

Kay Kropac, owner of Cafe Venice, set the standard at her restaurant by wearing a mask and gloves.

She’s noticed the increase in traffic on Tamiami Trail.

“I’ve had people call and ask if our employees are wearing gloves and masks, otherwise they won’t come in,” Kropac said. “Masks are not mandatory, but anything we can do to make the public feel safe is in all our best interests.”

She said many people were wanting to sit outside.

Roger Gibson, owner of Venice Stationers, shut his store down two weeks prior to the governor’s April 8 directive for other nonessential shops to close. He was being extra careful.

“We shut down early to help do our part to flatten the curve,” he said, saying he paid his workers during that period.

He’s taking the reopening guidelines seriously.

Like some of the other shops, a sign on the door asks customers to be mindful of the pandemic and to wear a mask.

“We calculated we could have 20 people in the store at one time,” Gibson said.

If the store hits capacity, customers have to wait outside until someone exits. An employee stands at the door wearing a mask and gloves, tracking on a paper pad the number of people inside — and opening and closing the door as another safety measure so customers don’t have to touch it.

“We ask customers to stay six feet apart, but we’re not requiring them to wear a mask. Some are. We did what was practical,” Gibson said. “We’ve been through hurricanes, red tide and now COVID-19. We’ll get (past) this.”

Mike Ehik, of Celebration Corner, said he used the mandatory closure time to sanitize his store.

These days, he leaves out a large bottle of hand sanitizer for customers to use. And he leaves the storefront doors openfor fresh air and so customers don’t have to touch the doorknob.

Paula Wesley, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, said she disinfects the tiny storefront after each walk-in leaves. It’s part of the new rules. She wasn’t wearing a mask on Thursday, but had one by her side, ready to don the mask should a customer come in.

The vast majority of non-restaurant store employees up and down West Venice Avenue aren’t wearing them, either.

Janie Hill, of Venice, strolling with her daughter, Leigh Ann Brookings, of Kentucky, were against wearing a mask — largely because they’re uncomfortable.

“Look, we’re outside. If the virus had just started, I would. When it first began, I self-quarantined for 14 days just to be safe. But now it’s time to let the horses out of the barn,” Hill said. “Those who are sick or have underlying conditions are smart enough to stay pk彩票.”

Brookings said she will have to quarantine after she flies pk彩票 to Kentucky, whose Gov. Andy Beshear made a strong recommendation to wear masks beginning May 11 as that state begins to reopen.

“It’s ridiculous. Everywhere I’ve been people are following the (social distancing) rules,” Brookings said.

Tony and Barbara Strollo, of Venice, said they didn’t find it necessary to wear a mask, either. In their 70s, they have no underlying issues.

“We don’t believe in the shutdown. Employees getting more money to stay pk彩票 than to work?” Strollo said.

Shoppers Kathryn Lowndes, of Venice, and JL Watson, of Fort Myers, enjoyed ice cream and refreshments on a bench Friday afternoon. Both had masks in their possession.

”I don’t chose to wear a mark unless I’m forced to wear a mask,” Lowndes said.

”While I don’t like to wear one, it’s required at work,” Watson said. She was wearing a mask pushed under her chin while she enjoyed an ice cream.

”I might pull it down in certain (settings). I want to be safe and I want others to do what what they feel is safe for them,” Watson said.

Jeff and Tricia Mangrum, owners of Boutique by the Beach, said they don’t require customers to wear masks.

”We don’t judge people … if they wear a mask or don’t wear a mask,” Jeff Mangrum said.

”In some stores you have to wear one. If the customer has underlying conditions that put them at risk, they should wear a mask,” Tricia Mangrum said.

Dianne Stone, of Venice, said she doesn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t wear one.

“They’re so ridiculously easy to make,” she said.

“If we really want to protect each other, we need to wear them,” said Filippo Villella, owner of Ristorante San Marco, who was wearing a mask Thursday.


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