Masks are getting a lot more attention in Lakeland as one of the measures people can take when out in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Several local organizations are promoting their use or helping consumers find mask-friendly businesses:

All of these initiatives were launched after the Lakeland City Commission last week twice declined to support an order making masks mandatory inside businesses.

Mask wearing is important because it prevents someone who doesn’t know they have COVID-19 from unknowingly spreading the disease to others, the Watson Clinic’s managing partner told commissioners last week.

“Masks are probably the least expensive mitigation measure that this commission could possibly be considering,” Dr. Steven Achinger said. “We all understand the expense of the shutdown and the amount of pain that it inflicts on the community, and we want to avoid that.”

A friend of LkldNow, Marten Walters, last week contacted several local restaurants and coffee shops (most of them in downtown and Dixieland) to gauge their policies for masks and personal distancing.

He wrote this message to them last Wednesday via their Facebook pages:

“I want to go to a restaurant with great food but also where I can feel safe. What are your policies on safe distancing and masks for staff and customers?”

Here are the answers, in the order he received them:

Nineteen 61: “Our current staff are wearing mask and we’re following the recommended distance protocols. We would love to serve you.”

Marten pressed on: “Are there any rules for customers?” The reply: “We currently don’t have any requirements for customers other than having a wonderful time and enjoying delicious food.”

Frescos: “Our staff is now wearing masks and we seat tables to best accommodate social distancing guidelines.”

Marten pressed on: “Are there any rules for customers?” The reply: “Just to have a good time. We wiil take care of the rest safely.”

Hillcrest Coffee: “Hey Marten, touch-free service is still available with online or phone orders. Eating and drinking outside is available. 6′ distancing between tables inside and out. Sanitized tables after each customer leaves, sanitize door handles, sanitize Square screen. Entrance and exit separately. Delivery outside on cart if requested. Home delivery is also an option. Masks are optional. If eating or drinking on premises, it’s gotta come off, so govern yourself accordingly.”

Palace Pizza: “Hello. We follow CDC guidelines for business and employees. We are operating at 75% capacity and we encourage all of our customers to follow the 6-foot rule . We sanitize everything we can and our employees wear a face mask or cover and they also get their temperature checked every shift. The only thing we don’t do as of right now is forcing our customers to wear a mask, but we encourage them to do so! Thanks for reaching out to us.”

Terrace Hotel: “We are social distancing our tables and taking extra measures as far as sanitizing. Masks can be worn by your server upon request.”

Red Door Lakeland: “Hey, there. Thanks for reaching out. Like you, we value the safety and health of our guests and employees. Our safety measures include outdoor seating at properly distanced tables (with reservations strongly encouraged), mandatory masks for employees, and increased sanitation of all areas. If you like to make a reservation, please give us a call at (863) 937-9314 so we can do our best to ensure you feel both safe and comfortable.”

Bay Street Bistro: In a series of responses, the restaurant’s social media manager three times asked Marten to call the restaurant owner. Bay Street Bistro has since announced they are taking a vacation and will reopen for takeout and private events.

Crispers (downtown location): “Hi Marten, thanks for the great question! Crispers has put up markers on the floor to keep the flow going one way. We have also put tape on the floor separating customers every six feet. We have put tables in front of the counter where you place an order to keep a safe distance. We offer Apple pay and Google for touchless transactions. We have removed all multi-use items from the dining room such as drink lids, straws and condiments. All employees are required to wear face masks and temperature checks upon entering the building. We have our employees sanitize all areas such as door handles, cc machines, counter surfaces etc. Please feel free to ask any other questions you may have. Crispers is committed to putting forth every effort to ensure safety.”

Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille: “I totally understand! You can view all our safety precautions we are taking here :

Restaurants that did not respond: Silver Ring Cafe, Mitchell’s Coffee House, Patio850, Taco Bus Lakeland, Bonefish Grill, Black & Brew.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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