TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The return of Florida Legislative Session means the return of the bulk of business for downtown restaurants that are still reeling from COVID-19 impacts.
The start of a new year brings legislators from across the sunshine state right into the heart of Tallahassee. Rob Bazemore owns Metro Deli. The restaurant has been serving those same legislators for 18 years.
"We're kind of used to the process of committee weeks first where it gets everybody warmed up including us before session comes full swing. The extra foot traffic between January and April leads people from the state capitol and straight to restaurants downtown, bringing in double the business restaurants see throughout the rest of the year," said Bazemore.
There's more on the line for businesses this go around that are still trying to make up for losses due to COVID-19.
"It hit us pretty hard. We luckily were able to stay open the entire time. The employees were able to stay working. But we had to make adjustments. There weren't as many people downtown for obvious reasons," said Bazemore.
Shutdowns slowed business at Metro Deli, where much of its business year-round comes from the Leon County Courthouse and state offices. Down the street, Chuck's Fish had a quiet opening.
"It gave us a chance to get our feet wet, meet people, and enjoy the experience rather than jump into the craziness," said Chuck's Fish General Manager Natasha Bills.
The seafood restaurant opened up in August and has had steady business ever since. Now surrounding businesses are telling them to get ready.
"They've definitely been warning us. Saying gear up, this is going to be an extreme couple of months for you. They've been very helpful," said Bills.
The Florida Capitol is now hosting committee meetings. The legislative session officially starts on March 2 and goes until April 30.