Restaurants deal with restrictions on Cinco de Mayo

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Jackie Winchester
Credit: WINK News

Cinco de Mayo is usually a big moneymaker for restaurants and bars, but because of restrictions – and the fact that bars are closed – it looked a little different this year.

Restaurants went into the night hoping that people would come out and support them.

Any other year, Cabos Cantina in downtown Fort Myers would be packed and the streets would be filled with people celebrating Cinco de Mayo, but this year, the restaurant wasn’t open at all.

The restaurants that were had to make some major adjustments, like operating at a quarter of their usual capacity.

“A normal Cinco de Mayo here would be pretty chaotic for us; at this time we’d probably have about 100 people waiting in the parking lot,” said Omar Hernadez, general manager of Señor Tequila’s in south Fort Myers.

This Cinco de Mayo was different. Employees had to wear masks while serving a limited number of guests in spaced seating indoors and overflow seating outdoors.

They’re worried about what fewer customers means for their business.

“This is normally our make it or break it, kind of. Cinco de Mayo is our biggest day of the year so it is a big blow to us,” Hernandez said.

They’re not alone. Down the road at Cantina Laredo, the staff worked to make sure they were successful – and safe.

“People will sit all night and you’re full, there’s no elbow space. Today there is,” said Erin Lemmer, Cantina Laredo manager.

“We’re doing the best we can. We have people inside keeping the restaurant clean,” said Joe Valenza, also a manager at Cantina Laredo.

But bars and some restaurants, like Cabos Cantina, that would normally rake in thousands of dollars on Cinco de Mayo aren’t open for the festivities at all.

“These are the holidays that really help us get through summer and some of our slower months, so not having these it’s going to be a little bit more difficult this year,” said Daniel Kearns, vice president of operations at Kearns Restaurant Group.

Staff at Señor Tequila’s and Cantina Laredo consider themselves lucky.

“This is definitely impacting us but we’re open, so we’re happy about that,” Valenza said.

“The community has definitely came out and helped us,” Hernandez said.

The restaurants visited Tuesday by WINK News said they hope the additional seating they’ve added outside helps them stay afloat right now.

Cabos Cantina will reopen May 11.

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