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Businesses bounce back as COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end

Posted at 6:55 PM, May 08, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) — Business is growing in Tallahassee as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.

Derek Hart, owner of Fire Betty's Lounge and Finnegan's Wake Pub said he bought both bars after they closed their doors in 2020 because he saw a need for socialization after isolation during the lockdown.

"You felt like you lost a year of your life. Some people, two years. I think that people.... people need that socialization," Hart said. "They need to be able to come to a fun and safe place and drink and have fun with friends and family. That's what we provided for people."

That was also the reason why Derek Hart bought Fire Betty's and Finnegan's Wake in 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both businesses had closed during the beginning of the pandemic and Hart saw an opportunity to bring the Midtown area back to life. That opportunity was one that fulfilled it's expectations.

"When we first opened, we were inundated," Hart said. "I think our first post got thousands of likes when we first announced that Finnegan's was coming back."

Hart opening his doors was part of what added over 27,000 jobs back to the Tallahassee metro, 9,000 more than there were in February of 2020 before the shutdown.

But, not everyone had as easy of a time after things reopened. David Turknett, owner of Burrito Boarder on Pensacola Street said dealing with inflation was almost harder than the pandemic itself.

"The aftermath was probably a little more difficult because there wasn't as much help anymore but all of a sudden, your food costs, your labor costs, those things rose while you're still trying to build your guest base back up," Turknett said.

Turknett said his restaurant stayed afloat with the help of CARES Act funds and the help of the community.

"We've had so many of our guests tell us that I stopped by three times this week just because we want to make sure you guys were still a business," "That means the world to us because that means they still care about us because they can see we care about the guests."

A community that has also helped Hart's businesses.

"We were again inundated with people who wanted to come out and it's been that way. A lot of businesses will open and have a peak and then they'll see a dive and then it'll level off," Hart said. "Every month since we have been open has been higher than the last month."

Hart said the success of Fire Betty's and Finnegan's pushed him to open Duke's and Dottie's last month, a line-dancing, western-themed bar.