Restaurants and some retailers were able to open their doors Monday by order of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last week decreed that Florida would begin slowly getting back to work.

This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to the Northwest Florida Daily News.

DESTIN — Through the end of March and all during April, as she struggled to keep her young business afloat on a takeout menu, Luisa Garcia was forced to work without the steadying influence of her mother, Alicia.


From Sept. 26, the day Garcia opened G.I Jade Tiki Bar and Bistro in Fort Walton Beach, until the coronavirus pandemic hit home, Alicia, who is in her 80s, had been the person responsible for rolling the silverware.


"She’s a germ freak," Garcia said. "She wouldn’t let anyone else do it."


Garcia was able to open her doors to the public again Monday, and as she prepared to do so, she was thrilled to see her mother arrive to resume her rolling role.


She saw it as a good omen.


"We were down to about four employees, and as soon as we opened two servers and two bartenders came back to us," she said. "We just did anything to stay afloat. I knew I couldn’t let the virus get me ... and tomorrow’s Cinco De Mayo and Taco Tuesday."


Restaurants and some retailers were able to open their doors Monday by order of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last week decreed that Florida would begin slowly getting back to work.


frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen>

Some are saying that the openings are occurring too soon, that the threat of the coronavirus, which as of Monday had claimed nearly 1,400 Florida lives, had not subsided.


Some business people, though, were welcoming the order.


"It’s great, great, great," was how Denise James described being able to open her doors again.


James runs Lizard Thicket, a store located at Destin Commons that sells womens’ clothes and accessories. She was among the first to open her doors at the vast outdoor mall, but said she was confident her neighbors would soon be following suit.


James on several occasions Monday morning had to prevent people from entering her shop so that she could maintain a 10-person occupancy limit.


"Everybody’s ready to get out and spend that money," she said.


While Destin Commons was showing definite signs of coming back to life Monday, there was not a frenzy to open.


Many corporate entities with businesses in the shopping center were waiting for clearance from above, said Destin Commons spokeswoman Heather Ruiz, and some restaurants needed to restock food shelves and reload on personnel.


Ruiz said it is anticipated that between 75 and 80 percent of businesses within Destin Commons will have reopened by the end of the week.


Destin-wide it did not appear that most restaurants were rushing to reopen on the first day of the governor’s order going into effect.


Lida Gershaw, the owner/operator of Smashburger, was simply giddy to be resuming something closer to normal operations. Her Destin Commons business has also been preparing takeout for the last month and a half, and she could only maintain a skeleton crew.


"Everybody walks in here and you can just tell, everybody is so happy to get their food and sit down and enjoy their meal," she said. "And for me the biggest change of all is in the attitude of the employees. They are excited to get to work."


The inside of Smashburger only holds three tables and about eight seats, so it wouldn’t take more than a person or two to bust the governor’s 25 percent capacity rule.


But with the sun out and plenty of outside seating, on Monday there didn’t appear to be much demand for inside seating anyway.


"It’s nice. Alabama’s not open," said Town Creek, AL resident Mendy Jeffreys, who was dining outside Smashburger with Kendall Crowell, daughter Laney Jeffreys and Halley Grace Phillips. Jeffreys said the group was visiting at a friend’s condominium.


"It’s kinda nice to sit down and eat again and not try to get it in your car," she said.


GI Jade’s Garcia, like Gershaw at Smashburger, will be able to take advantage of the governor’s outside eating policy, which has been translated to say that up to 100 can dine in one place as long as groups are limited to 10 and six-foot distancing is maintained.


Bass Pro Shop, one of the cornerstones of Destin Commons, was listed as an essential business and has therefore remained open as the coronavirus has run its course. General Manager Ryan Cox said the store has remained popular through the closure period.


"A lot of what people are looking to do right now is outdoors. We’re seeing an incredible amount of boating and fishing," he said. "Originally it was guns and ammo, now it’s more fishing stuff."


With a store of approximately 75,000-square-feet and a good customer flow, Cox said he has not had to deal with limiting the numbers coming in to Bass Pro Shop. The 25 percent capacity limitation will not impact the store, he said.


Ruiz, the Destin Commons spokesperson, said she’d been coming in to work about once a week during the coronavirus shutdown, and found the experience disheartening.


"It’s sad, this is usually such a vibrant and active area," Ruiz said. "Coming in when it was empty was difficult."