Businesses across the city of Ocala shuttered their doors Friday morning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has ground the nation to a halt.
The effects of the virus have rippled throughout the business community this week. On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that bars would not be allowed to operate for 30 days, and restaurants would have to operate at 50 percent capacity. On Friday, he restricted restaurants to drive-thru, takeout and delivery services.
Dozens of local businesses have been adversely effected, with a few exceptions like grocers and hardware stores. Those vendors have actually seen record sales in light of residents stockpiling supplies. Businesses in east, west and downtown Ocala all closed their doors this week, uncertain of when they would reopen.
The Shady Oaks Shopping Center, located on State Road 200, was more empty than normal on Friday afternoon. Businesses like Bagelicious Deli and Bakery and Jay Nails have closed up shop temporarily. Bagelicious posted a sign encouraging customers to visit the company’s Facebook page for updates on its reopening.
Small businesses were not the only ones left with no choice but to close their doors, as large retailers and restaurants were also forced into cost-saving measures. Golden Corral, the popular buffet restaurant located on SR 200, posted a sign indicating that “given the current circumstances and in the best interest of our co-workers and guests,” the company was temporarily closing the location through the end of the month.
The parking lot of the only corporate Verizon Wireless location in Ocala, situated along SR 200, was completely empty, a stark contrast for one of the busiest telecommunications vendor locations in the city.
Some restaurants were promoting their curbside and drive-thru services on Friday, with signs posted denying entry to their interior dining rooms. Chick-fil-A locations on SR 200 promoted their curbside offerings, including the Paddock Mall location.
With a collection of businesses forced to close their doors, many others have switched to focus on retail merchandise and food sales, encouraging customers and patrons to shop local and keep the local economy bolstered during tough times.
The Keep Downtown, a popular wine bar that features live music and perhaps the most unique alcohol offering in downtown Ocala, encouraged customers in an email to support them by buying wine and food while they keep their interior dining room empty.
“The best way to support us is to shop with us to stock up your wine,” said the email. The downtown hotspot is selling a variety of pizzas, flat breads, cheeses and foods that they say will be available through Bitesquad.
Earlier this week, a collection of popular downtown bars was forced to close their doors. Infinite Ale Works, a downtown brewery located at 304 S Magnolia Ave, indicated that they would have to shut down. Since closing, the business has teamed up with Big Lee’s Barbecue to sell packs of beer in conjunction with barbecue. Follow Infinite Ale Work’s Facebook page for more information on upcoming promotions to help support their business.
The Lodge and The Corkscrew Winery, located next door to each other in downtown Ocala, both closed their doors on Tuesday amid the governor’s orders to close all bars in Florida.
“If you wish to purchase a bottle to take home with you please contact us through Facebook messenger and we can coordinate a time for you to come in and pick it up,” said a post on Corkscrew’s Facebook page.
In response to the negative impacts of the virus being felt across the business community, the state government has made a business disaster survey available to administer financial relief.