“Nobody has experience here”: Local Gainesville restaurants band together to bring in business

Five Downtown Gainesville restaurants work together in presenting creative ideas to commissioners to keep business flowing and safe.
Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 4:55 AM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Coronavirus based emergency orders have kept restaurants on their toes making changes to comply with safety guidelines.

“We had barely gotten our heads around the first order when we got our fifth change order,” said Danny Hughes, the co-owner of Loosey’s Downtown. He’s owned the restaurant/bar with his wife since 2010. Since May, Loosey’s Downtown has used a portion of SE 1 Ave. for outdoor seating.

“Figuring a bunch of things out that we never thought we would have to figure out before,” added Hughes. “One of the constants throughout this whole thing, when you come up in any business and you become a business owner or a business leader, you always have mentors.

“There’s people that you look up to that taught you something that you can call when things get bad. Nobody has experience here.”

The possibility of being shut down on Gator game days may be a threat to their existence. Although, Hughes said things get better when you work together. He has collaborated with other Downtown businesses like The Bull, Crane Ramen, Volta coffee and Madrina’s. Hughes’ end goal is to get city and county leaders to get creative.

“I hope that they are willing to try something that maybe they’re uncomfortable with,” Hughes mentioned.

It’s a sentiment that Madrina’s owner TJ Palmieri can agree with.

“You know a high tide raises all ships,” said Palmieri.

Madrina’s has been closed since the start of the pandemic. The small downtown cocktail bar has started selling to-go drinks to stay afloat.

“A creative attitude in terms of solving the problem a la opening up some of the streets to some open container rules,” said Palmieri. “The ability to do to go cocktails was great early on but largely that sort of business has dried up now. So yeah it would be cool if they would empathize with me personally and the fact that this bar is tiny.”

Gainesville city commissioners vote Thursday on potentially suspending enforcement of the open container ordinance. If it’s adopted, their agenda mentions it will help local restaurants keep large groups gathering downtown outside and socially distanced.

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