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Seminole Heights restaurant owner keeps dining room closed for staff, customer safety

Although Florida allows restaurants to operate at full indoor capacity in Phase 3, some restaurant owners don't feel safe enough to reopen fully.

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida moved into Phase 3 of reopening at the end of September, allowing restaurants to fully reopen their indoor dining rooms without occupancy restrictions.

Many restaurants took advantage of the announcement, immediately reopening at full capacity. It's understandable, given the coronavirus pandemic has crippled businesses, especially in the service industry, for several months.

Some business owners understand the desire to reopen to the public and welcome back all of their customers but don't feel that it's safe enough to do it quite yet.

Florida's percent positive rate of COVID-19 tests jumped to over five percent this week. The World Health Organization says to safely reopen, states should have less than five percent positivity for 14 days.

Joe Dodd, the owner of King of the Coop in Seminole Heights, said, "We're still going through this. There's still issues. If we can save somebody's life or keep people from getting sick, then let's do it." 

That's why Dodd decided to keep the dining room at the Nashville hot chicken joint closed, despite the state's allowance.

"As a business owner, it's not about me, it's not about you. It's about everybody and what's best for everybody. My first priority is keeping my team safe and keeping my customers safe," said Dodd. 

King of the Coop has been doing take-out only since March, relying heavily on Uber Eats orders. The online delivery service accounts for nearly 40 percent of their sales. They've actually seen a bit of a boost in business during the pandemic, allowing the team to move forward with a second location in Wesley Chapel. 

However, the restaurant has reopened its patio for customers to sit and eat their to-go orders.

The dining room will stay closed until Dodd's team says they feel safe having people eat inside. He says the decision will be made by his employees because his duty is to protect them first.

RELATED: Phase 3 reopening makes it more difficult to enforce mask mandate

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis lifts state-level restaurant capacity restrictions, allows Florida to move to Phase 3 of reopening

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