Photo via City of Winter Park/Facebook
As Central Florida begins gradually reopening after a six-week shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Winter Park is blocking off portions of Park Avenue, Morse Boulevard and New England Avenue to create a Mother's Day "weekend opportunity."
Winter Park director of communications Clarissa Howard stressed that this is not an "event," but a chance to go outside to shop and eat in public again. She said this is new for the city, as they have never held a Mother's Day weekend like this, "especially during the pandemic."
Nevertheless, starting Friday at 4 p.m., until Sunday's curfew begins at 11 p.m., 22 of more than 400 eligible businesses within city limits will offer seating and merchandise indoors and on sidewalks, with streets closed to car traffic to allow for social distancing.
With fewer than 5 percent of the city's businesses applying to be part of this weekend, Howard stated that she did not expect the numbers of a "typical sidewalk art festival," which often bring out shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.
Businesses who chose to be part of the weekend reopening had to submit an application in advance to receive a license. The application required restaurants and retailers to include a diagram of proposed seating and outdoor merchandise racks depicting where sidewalks, steps, planters and umbrellas are located, among others. Restaurants had to attach a scale drawing showing the total number of tables and chairs in their new layout, to demonstrate that safe distances between tables are possible. Retailers had to attach a similar drawing including store racks and display tables.
Although the city says social distancing will be enforced and monitored by staff, the parks and recreation department, and the city's fire and police departments, Howard emphasized that the city is "not worried about social distance because it's an outdoor opportunity," where visitors may spread out on Winter Park's Central Park and the closed streets. She confirmed that those enforcing social distancing will remind visitors of guidelines to ensure everyone's safety. Hand-washing and hand sanitizer stations will also be provided throughout the weekend.
Photo via Rieker Shoes/Instagram
"We are encouraging the public to bring masks, because if they feel like they are going to be ... close to someone when they're dining or walking," Howard said, "it's always safe to have a mask and everyone has to take their own personal responsibility as well."
Although visitors are merely encouraged to bring and wear masks, workers will be required to wear masks when within six feet of anyone, said Howard.
Howard hopes that this Mother's Day Weekend will provide a "soft opening" to allow residents to return to some sense of normalcy and enjoy the weekend with loved ones.
"As you know, the public's comfort level is very different from one person to another," said Howard. "Certainly we wouldn't do this if we weren't taking the precautions necessary and following the guidelines of our state and local governments."
Although some business have remained opened for takeout only, Howard sees the weekend opportunity as a chance to support "our businesses who certainly have been struggling through this entire pandemic, but also ... to patronize them in a different way outside of the curbside dining."
Confident that the event will support the community, Howard emphasized that as long as people and employees stick to guidelines, there is nothing to fear this weekend.
"To make any type of reopening a success when you're mixing back in with the public is to be respectful of that space needed."
Photo via Park Avenue Winter Park/Instagram
Please follow CDC guidelines and Orange County advisories to stay safe, and please support this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider making a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps.