Business owners and tourism officials weigh in on first weekend of Phase Two
With the start of Phase Two over the weekend, bars and many other businesses could open the doors again.
For Salty Oak Brewing Company in St. Andrews, whose doors were closed since March, they say it was a steady stream of locals and visitors.
“Saturday we had people from Ohio, people from Michigan. A lot of them came in and sat down, a lot of them had beers to go and brought them back to the beach,” said co-owner of Salty Oak Chris Dingler. “Lots of locals but also quite a bit of people on vacation.”
Officials with Destination Panama City say safety and social distancing were at the top of the list for businesses reopening as tourists made their way across the bridge to help kick start the economy.
“Tourism is essential in our community even here on the city side. A lot of people don’t recognize that a lot of our mom and pop businesses depend on not just the tourists that stay here but the daily visitors we get from the beach,” said President and CEO of Destination Panama City Jennifer Vigil. “So I know all the local business owners really appreciate the fact that they’re able to open back up.”
While officials say the beach side of town also stayed busy with many tourist hot spots opening back up, tourism officials say they are keeping an eye on where the visitors are coming from to keep locals safe from COVID-19.
“One of the things that all of our lodging partners are looking at is where are those hotspots and discouraging travel from those places because we want our visitors to be safe and we want our local residents to be safe,” said executive director of the Bay County Tourism Development Council, Dan Rowe
For business owners, they say with phase two is a step to getting back to normal.
"It was great for us to have the doors open and see our friends, our customers. This weekend, it was good for everybody,” added co-owner of Salty Oak Greg Alley.