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Destin restaurants excited to welcome customers back

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

It was hard to tell who was more happy, the customers or the restaurant staff.

After more than a month of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic area restaurants were given the go ahead by Gov. Ron DeSantis last week to open on Monday, but at 25 percent capacity on indoor seating. As for the outdoor seating, which a lot of the area restaurants along Destin harbor have, they were to be separated by at least six feet.

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Before noon on Monday, customers came to visit and eat at their favorite haunts. Some folks wore mask, while others walked in but kept their distance. But all groups were seated within the the guidelines - six feet apart.

“I feel relieved,” said Jack Dorman, long-time Destin resident.

“I haven’t missed a Wednesday here in nine years,” Dorman said as he took a seat to have lunch at Dewey Destin’s Harborside.

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However, he has missed about a months worth of Wednesdays in recent weeks.

But once the doors opened, Dorman couldn’t wait until Wednesday.

“They’re good people and good company,” Dorman said. As a matter of fact he doesn’t even order off the menu, the chef always just cooks him up something special.

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“The two places I’ve missed have been Dewey’s and my barber,” Dorman said, noting he was in need of a haircut.

Before noon, Dewey’s already had seated eight tables, according to hostess Gina Watson.

“I feel like a kid on the first day of school,” Watson said with excitement in her voice as she wore a mask.

But all staff at Dewey’s are wearing mask, from the kitchen staff to the bus boys to the general manager.

“All of our staff is wearing masks,” said Kevin Lephart, general manager at Dewey Destin’s Harborside.

They are taking all kinds of safety measures at Dewey’s from washing hands every half hour, to taking the temperature of the staff every day.

“Every time I walk out (onto the floor) and walk back in, I wash my hands,” said Robert Malcolm, a server and part-time manager at Dewey’s.

“I’ve got a little one at home and I don’t want to bring any thing home,” Malcolm said.

They are also sanitizing all the condiment containers and menus between each use. They also have spots marked off near the restrooms for people to wait and still be socially distanced.

“We’ve taken out a large number of tables to make sure of the space between the customers,” Lephart said.

Vance and Janet Booker were seated on the back deck at Dewey’s, and glad to be there.

“We’re very excited,” Vance said.

The couple live part-time here and part-time in Atlanta. The Bookers said they like to eat at all the restaurants up and down the harbor.

“We like to get the catch-of-the-day where ever we go,” Lance said.

Whitney Tatarek, who’s been with Dewey’s a little more than a year, was the Booker’s server on Monday.

“It feels weird,” Tatarek said about being back at work. “The mask are hot ... but I’m willing to do it.

“It’s been interesting to learn all the new cleaning stuff,” Tatarek added about the sanitizing of the different things.

"It’s a lot better than being home or at school,“ said Gary Winthorp, as he bused a table. “I can be moving and working and making money,” Winthorp said.

Tailfins Ale House and Oyster Bar was open on Monday as well with folks sitting under umbrellas on the back deck.

“Our outside is open and we’re at 25 percent on the inside,” said Luke Mitchell, general manager at Tailifins. “We’re doing hourly checks and wiping down stuff.”

Around noon they had about four tables full of folks, but socially distanced in between.

Mitchell said they have about four tables on the bottom floor inside and hopefully by the weekend they will have 10 more tables open on the top floor.

“And we’re still doing takeout,” he said.

“It’s amazing to be back,” said Boyd Cochran, Tailfin server and manager.

Cochran said the unemployment and stimulus, which he still hasn’t received, wasn’t cutting it.

“I don’t have a table ... but I’m glad to work,” Cochran said. “And we’re taking extreme measures to open.

“Having the outdoor seating helps a lot ... it’s just good to be out and about,” Cochran added.

AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar, which had Star Wars movies showing on the Jumbotron all day on May the 4th, also known as Star Wars Day, was open and serving up food.

“It’s been pretty good,” said Megan Clark, a manager at AJ’s. “We’re open outside and doing 25 percent seating inside.”

The staff has been sanitizing and wiping tables and condiment bottles down. As for wearing mask, Clark said they are ordered and should be in any time.

Hostess Kendall Motley was even helping with the wiping and sanitizing of the tables.

“I’m just glad to be back and open,” Motley said.