coronavirus pandemic

COVID Pandemic's Impact on South Florida's Entertainment District

Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale is one of the many entertainment areas that has seen a share of ups and downs due to the pandemic

NBC Universal, Inc.

Our look at the pandemic effect takes us to an entertainment district that's seen its share of ups and downs over the last year.

It’s an area you’ve probably been to: Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.

“Nobody really knew, I mean we were all hopeful, people were scared, the business owners were scared they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know what they were allowed to do,” says Jodi Tanner, Vice President of the Las Olas Association.

The area is Fort Lauderdale’s premier destination for restaurants, shopping and things to do. Tanner can tell you best that on any given day of the week, you would see locals and tourists strolling the sidewalk.

However, when the country shut down last March, the boulevard was anything but bustling.

“It’s been tough times, to be honest,” says Alex Variu, manager of Gran Forno.

Gran Forno kept their store front open throughout the pandemic, removing seating while ramping up take out and trying to comply with all the other requirements.

“It’s been tough, the store has been open, we’ve tried to keep it open because there was no supply of bread in the chain stores and we tried to help everybody out as much as possible,” says Variu.

Marc Leach, a pharmacist and owner of The Chemist can relate as it has been a Las Olas staple for 16 years.

“Every day, I would walk in during the pandemic and I would say I am just one of the luckiest guys,” says Leach.

Lucky because they survived the rollercoaster the pandemic brought. Some of their neighbors were not so lucky.

“It’s tough, it’s not just them, it’s a lot of restaurants that closed down and a lot of businesses as well, not just restaurants,” says Variu.

Las Olas lost some favorite spots like Timpano Chophouse and Moda Mario as well as some new editions like Etaru and Talento. They closed shop during the pandemic.

However, as some doors closed new stores opened. Las Olas as we once knew it has changed and now there’s a rebirth of livelihood.

“In a really bad situation people are kind of a little reinvigorated to get out there, make out dream come into fruition and open the store, open the restaurant,” says Tanner.

Vinos, which is a small business right on Las Olas, expanded their business and moved across the street. Quiet Waters is a new surf shop coming in. A new jewelry store just opened last month.

There’s Eddie V's Harborwood at Hyatt Centric, Hemp Café and Salt 7. Cuba Libre, a 9,000 square foot modern Cuban eatery and drinking establishment. will open this month.

“Yeti is doing fantastic and they started during the worst time ever,” says Tanner.

There’s even more new spots on the way. Las Olas is just one of the many entertainment locations that has seen its fair share of change throughout the last year. Finally, a year later, the businesses NBC 6 spoke to say they are seeing the silver lining and getting back to their pre-pandemic levels.

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