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The Return Of Dining Out In Jacksonville Is Gathering Some Momentum

Diners enjoy brunch Sunday at J. Alexander's at the St. Johns Town Center.

While Mother’s Day weekend has been far from normal, some people are heading back out to visit the bars and restaurants that have reopened around town with social distancing restrictions in place.

At J. Alexander’s at the St. Johns Town Center, people could be seen dining in limited numbers for Mother’s Day, traditionally a big day for restaurants.

Across the street at The Capital Grille,  the dining room has also reopened, while food pick-up continues.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

At Brooklyn Station on Riverside Avenue in the urban core, a number of diners were wearing masks Saturday at Burger Fi, with social distancing signs on the floor to remind customers to keep their distance while ordering.

Across the way at the Brooklyn Burrito Gallery, the downstairs bar was closed and seating was very limited, with a few people ordering dinner Saturday evening.

On the other side of Downtown at the edge of the sports complex, Intuition Ale Works was welcoming customers back. The tap room and upstairs outdoor area were both open when WJCT News stopped by around 5 p.m., with a small number of customers on both floors.

Credit Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News
At Maggiano's Little Italy an employee gives a thumbs-up in between serving drive-up customers picking up their orders on Sunday at the St. Johns Town Center.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order limiting dining room occupancy to 25% remains in effect.

But not all restauranteurs have reopened their dining rooms. At Mikey’s Pizza, at the corner of Beach Boulevard and Parental Home Road, the dining room was still closed to customers as of Friday night, although the kitchen staff was busy making food for pick-up orders.

Scott Swartz, owner of El Jefe in Jacksonville’s Murray Hill neighborhood, said recently onFirst Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, that in Florida the food and beverage industry represents 12% of the state’s employment with 1.1 million workers.

Credit Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News
A Capital Grille employee helps customers with a pick-up order Sunday at the St. Johns Town Center. Indoor dining has also resumed at the Capital Grille on a limited basis.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition is a group calling on Congress to pass a $120 billion fund to help restaurants and their laid-off workers.

These restaurateurs say the Paycheck Protection Program isn't working for them.  The U.S. Department of Labor said employment in food services and drinking places plummeted by 5.5 million in April. 

As the gradual reopening continues, next up will be barbershops and salons. Starting Monday, May 11, they will also be allowed to reopen in most parts of Florida with enhanced safety protocols.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.