GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Restaurants and bar owners are rejoicing as the restrictions that have haunted bottom lines are now gone but many say they will continue to exercise some caution.
Mask mandate and social distancing procedures no longer being in effect have many business owners celebrating.
”I went outside in my garage and danced a jig,” said Shawn Rooney, the owner of Rooney’s Irish Pub in Gulfport. “I ain’t going to lie to you, brother. I was so giddy, I couldn’t even speak. I was calling people on the phone just to let them know.”
Right next door to Rooney’s Pub in downtown Gulfport is the District on the Alley. Like so many others, it’s a business that has been battling COVID-19 restrictions since it opened a mere year and a half ago.
”I immediately texted all my friends in the bar and restaurant business and everyone was elated,” said District owner Rob Reid. “They were so happy that this is happening, and we’re being responsible at the same time. We’re still following some of the guidelines. We’re still keeping sanitized and clean, but we’re happy we’re able to get things rolling again.”
While no longer required by the state, some businesses are still requiring their employees to wear masks as they try to make patrons feel safer while dining out.
”Honestly, I think we will be in masks until it is the generalist populist vote that it is safe enough, and I think we are a long ways from there,” said Salute owner Rob Stinson.
Some bar owners still hope to see customers wearing them when possible.
”It’s the smart thing to do,” said Kris Kwitsky, the owner of Kwitzky’s Dugout in Ocean Springs. “If you don’t feel well, don’t go out. If you don’t feel well and you have to go out, wear a mask.”
After everything, several bar owners are optimistic about the months ahead.
The restriction that may have hurt bars the most was the requirement to close up by 11 p.m. Some owners said that affected profit margins by as much as 75 percent.