With people staying in more than ever due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus disease outbreak, restaurants across West Volusia are feeling squeezed.
Adding to the pain, on March 20, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered an end to all on-premises dining in Florida restaurants for the time being.
In DeLand, city leaders have started a new program to allow people to patronize their favorite Downtown DeLand restaurants without leaving their vehicles.
The city, in partnership with the MainStreet DeLand Association, has launched a temporary curbside pickup program.
“The curbside program will help retail shops and restaurants in Downtown DeLand maintain business while also conforming to social distancing guidelines and minimizing people’s exposure to the virus,” said city spokesman Chris Graham.
Signs have been placed around Downtown DeLand designating 14 parallel-parking spots on Woodland Boulevard between Church Street and Howry Avenue as curbside pickup for restaurants and businesses.
Four designated parallel-parking spots are also located in the 100 blocks of East and West Rich Avenue, and three parallel-parking spots are available in the 100 blocks of East and West Indiana Avenue.
“We understand our businesses are going to struggle during this uncertain time,” Mayor Bob Apgar said. “The city is committed to doing whatever we can to help them. While this program focuses on the Downtown area, I encourage our residents to continue supporting all of our city’s businesses in the weeks and months ahead.”
Apgar said the curbside program was suggested by a local business owner, and that the city is open to any other innovative ideas from the community that could help DeLand businesses.
One of the local business owners behind the program is Melisa Reed, who, along with her husband, Dan, owns Cafe DaVinci, The Table restaurant and The Boulevard bar in Downtown DeLand.
She hopes the program will help DeLand’s award-winning central business district stay vibrant throughout the crisis.
“Nobody wants to see America’s Main Street fall apart overnight,” she said, referring to one title Downtown DeLand has received in recent years.
Jimmy Brissey, who co-owns Wrap It Up with his wife, Melissa, also praised the program.
“We’ve had a couple of people use it today. It’s working out good,” Brissey said. “We appreciate it.”
Wrap It Up, which serves up healthy wraps of many varieties along with flavorful and nutritious shakes, already had a robust to-go business, he said, but having the curbside spots gives customers another option to pick up their meals.
Despite the coronavirus crisis, he said Wrap It Up is still doing well.
“We’re very surprised at how well we’re doing,” said Brissey. “... The community is stepping up already.”
Other Downtown DeLand businesses have been trying to help out in other ways.
In an emailed announcement to customers, De La Vega Restaurant owners Mano De La Vega and Chef Nora De La Vega said they are closing their establishments in DeLand and Oviedo for at least 15 days.
They are trying to make the most of the downtime, however.
“We are switching gears, and rather than focusing on running our restaurant, we will use our time and resources to concentrate on helping others,” the two wrote. “We will help elders in our community get groceries by delivering them to facility administrators to avoid physical contact. ... We will help isolated kids by bringing joy to them in the form of toys, so we can help them cope with what’s happening and what is lying ahead in this crisis.”
The restaurant is taking donations to buy groceries for seniors and toys for kids. A page on the restaurant’s website, www.delavegart.com/temporary-shutdown, provides a way for people to donate to the cause, and to refer individuals who need help.
A GoFundMe campaign to help out-of-work bartenders, run by several Downtown bar owners, has raised $11,310 as of Monday morning, and an initial distribution of funds to those who need them has been made.
Exactly how the curbside pickup program will work will vary depending on the business, but generally, patrons will order their food (or other goods) ahead of time, online or by phone. They can then pay online, by phone, or in person when they pick up their items.
People can use the new spots to either run into an establishment and pick up their ordered food or goods, or they can have them delivered to their car.
City officials ask that people adhere to a five-minute time limit for the new spots.
“In the coming days, the city will also be working with its community partners to provide a list of businesses in operation, though the situation is evolving,” Graham said. “People should check with individual businesses to ensure they are in operation.”
In addition to The Table and Wrap It Up, restaurants participating in the curbside pickup program include Byte Bistro, Cress Restaurant, Neighbors Artisan Taqueria, Bellini's Deli, Urban Brick, BerryVille, Mr. Bill's Donuts and Trilogy Coffee Roasting Co.