March 8, 2021

CBS 12 News – South Florida drawing restaurants from out of state

By South Florida drawing restaurants from out of state

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially tough on restaurants. That has some restaurant owners migrating to South Florida from other states.

Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach is a popular place.

A bustling street with countless restaurants.

Two restaurants that opened here recently say when it comes to opening a restaurant during a pandemic, Florida offers some clear advantages.

“My out-of-state venues that we have in California are still under really strict policies. It's reduced occupancy, they’re outdoor dining only.," said Craig O'Keefe, Clique Hospitality managing partner.



Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine is one of several new restaurants on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. It's owned by Clique Hospitality, based in California.

They say the Delray Beach location is busy, proof that a restaurant can open during a pandemic and still make a profit.

“Down here we’re allowed 100% occupancy in here," O'Keefe said.

That’s not the case in some other places, such as California and New York where there’s no indoor dining allowed at all, and restaurants can only serve people outside at reduced capacity.

“It's very, very hard to operate and actually make money and sustain your business model at 25 percent occupancy and only outdoor dining," O'Keefe said.

He says fortunately Florida has been willing to let restaurants reopen at full capacity and seat customers inside and that’s a key advantage and gives Florida the edge.

“I think Florida is not shutting down and its actually opened up more and more and more. So a lot of New Yorkers are coming down here, a lot of restaurants from New York are coming down here," said Antonello Paganuzzi, Avalon Steak and Seafood director of operations.

Antonello Paganuzzi is a partner in Host Restaurant Group, which just opened Avalon Steak and Seafood on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach two weeks ago.

“We got very fortunate with this location. We were in at the right time, at the right place," Paganuzzi said.

His group owns four restaurants and three bars in New York. He says the fact that in Florida they can serve customers indoors, at full capacity, makes Delray Beach an easy choice when it comes to selecting a city to open a restaurant. He also says Delray Beach and trendy Atlantic Ave. has a vibe that’s hard to beat.

“I think Gov. DeSantis and the entire government of Florida is taking the right approach as far as being aggressive with COVID, that they’re not shutting down but they’re pushing forward.," Paganuzzi said.

More restaurants are coming in the weeks and months ahead. The owners of Lionfish, for example, say they plan to open five more restaurants in Delray Beach this year.

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