As the COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise in Duval County, restaurant owners are taking proactive steps to sanitize their businesses.
Jonathan Insetta, owner of Restaurant Orsay, Black Sheep Restaurant and Bellwether, sees it as a responsible business practice.
“We’ve had estimates of between $200 and $1,000 per (restaurant). I’m sure there are services that are more expensive. But there is a bigger cost to being closed,” Insetta said.
He started testing employees three weeks ago proactively for the safety of staff and guests.
On June 27, an employee at Black Sheep Restaurant tested positive and was found to be asymptomatic, he said.
Insetta closed his restaurants while his staff of 130 to 140 are tested for the virus.
Over half have been tested and no employee is allowed back without a negative test. Just the one employee has tested positive.
He expects to reopen this week.
Upon reopening, guests will be asked to wear masks. If they do not have one, one will be given to them.
Since the middle of June, he has closed the three restaurants two days a week. The first day was to allow the rooms to “rest” and the following day to be cleaned by staff. He will continue this practice for the foreseeable future.
During business hours, staff members clean the tables and chairs before and after every customer.
Insetta said customers have been requesting outside seating, especially the rooftop dining at Black Sheep in Five Points.
“When we built the rooftop, we hadn’t any plans for a pandemic. We have always offered full dinner service on the rooftop,” Insetta said.
Insetta hired Enviro-Master Services.
Mudville Grille in St. Nicholas hired Stanley Steemer for a deep clean including the kitchen, main dining room, conference room and Mudville Music Room.
The extra cleaning costs close to $2,000, owner Louis Joseph said. The expense comes as he is bringing in only a quarter of his usual business.
“We are hitting Facebook hard and showing appreciation for our customers. We are making sure people know we are doing our best to make sure everyone is staying safe,” he said.
Cost of the deep clean
Area restaurants are employing professional services to perform deep cleaning to ward against COVID-19.
They say the added expense, at a time when these businesses are limited to 50% occupancy, is purchasing peace of mind for customers, employees and owners.
The services extend beyond spraying antiseptic cleaners on tables and other surfaces. Professional cleaners are employing misters to sanitize hard-to-reach spaces.
Cleaning costs range from 30 cents to $3 per square foot depending on the size and services provided.
Professional crews come in before or after hours. Teams of two or three, dressed in full-body protective suits, use EPA-approved peroxide- and chlorine-based cleaning solutions that disinfect but are safe around food and kitchens.
Cleaning bars can be tedious as every bottle has to be sprayed and wiped.
Sedgwick Repair Solutions has 13 Jacksonville locations and more than 200 in Florida. It specializes in cleaning businesses after storm or fire damage.
COVID-19 related business is slowly picking up, said Brad Ervin, vice president of business development.
“We are finding that we are being called in after there has been a confirmed case.”
Locally, Sedgwick Repair Solutions has done about a dozen restaurant cleanings, he said. The work is documented and performed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention best practices.
System4 of Northeast Florida has been doing more preemptive restaurant cleanings, said company President Brian Moss.
COVID-19 related business increased in March and April, but calls fell off as more places decided to close before the state allowed limited dine-in service.
The company uses a two-step clean.
Moss said surfaces are sprayed with a germ-killing product called MicroShield 360 that is EPA-registered and FDA-approved.
After that an antimicrobial spray is applied that Moss said will keep surfaces germ-free for up to a year.
However, normal cleaning and sanitary practices must be performed by restaurant staff.
“Removing all of the bacteria and germs is effective until someone coughs or sneezes on that surface,” Moss said.
Insetta plans to have his three restaurants deep-cleaned once a week.
“If you don’t slow this thing down, it is going to creep in. We’d rather be proactive rather than reactive to it.”
By: Dan Macdonald