Monroe County is gearing up to reopen the economy under Florida's phase one plan, but it comes with restrictions.
Unlike neighboring Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, starting next week, Florida Keys residents can only visit restaurants that offer outdoor seating with six feet of space between tables. Indoor seating can only be at 25% capacity.
Chris Frank owns the Green Turtle Inn, a staple in Islamorada. They’ve been operating a takeout food truck during these forced closures, but now they’re preparing to partially open up their dining room.
"When we open, we’ll have 25% indoor capacity. That will take us from about 25 tables to five," Frank said. "We do have some outdoor seating available, which we will exploit."
The Keys rely on tourism, but they are still closed off to tourists and visitors for the time being. People can only get in with proof of residency documentation, such as a deed to a house or proof that you are performing essential work in the Keys.
Two checkpoints, including one near Mile Marker 112, remain in effect.
“There will be no opening of the checkpoint in the near future," said Commissioner Sylvia Murphy. "What will happen two or three weeks from now, who knows.”
As part of the state's phase one of reopening, schools will remain with distance learning, hotels will remain closed, and there will be no change for bars, gyms and personal services like hair dressers.
Retail can also operate at 25% indoor capacity. Various task forces are exploring if and when the Keys could reopen to tourists, but they are not there yet.
"Of course everybody knows this was our season," Frank said. "We were having a great year, but it is what it is, but I feel that we can open up limited to our Keys family. People are just dying to get out and get a little bit of normalcy back in their life.”