Texas Roadhouse ext

Note: This article has been updated to include the information that the Oviedo Texas Roadhouse has reopened for curbside takeout.

As more people in Central Florida test positive for COVID-19, restaurants and bars are reexamining their business model – again – and more are choosing to voluntarily close temporarily or to end on-site dining and return to offering takeout and delivery.

In several cases reported over the weekend – including at Will’s Pub, the Pharmacy and Kiwi’s Pub & Grill – the closing were prompted by the discovery that either a staff member or patron had tested positive. The Waterford Lakes Gator’s Dockside sports bar joined that list late Sunday evening when it announced an employee who last worked on Thursday has the virus.

Others, such as Tori Tori, Iron Cow and TJ’s Seafood Shack, announced precautionary closings to affect a deep cleaning of the facility and to test all employees.

Hunger St. Tacos (shown at top), the popular Winter Park eatery, said that it would return to offering only takeout and delivery service beginning Monday, closing its outdoor dining area to patrons.

The Oviedo Texas Roadhouse, shown at top, had closed last week after an employee tested positive and other staff members did not show up for their work shifts. It has since reopened but for curbside takeout only. The managing partner, Desmond Yates, said Tuesday (June 23) that he would likely reopen the dining room next week but at 25 percent capacity instead of the allowed 50 percent.

The reversals are a tacit acknowledgement from the hospitality industry that the reopening of businesses has been implemented too rapidly and without proper, mandated procedures to protect staff and customers.

Almost all of these bars and restaurants made the decision to close voluntarily.


Toritori exterior

Tori Tori, the trendy Mills 50 cocktail lounge and Japanese restaurant, announced Saturday that it was closing temporarity as a precautionary measure.

"Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases and local law," the company posted on its Facebook page,  "we will be closing temporarily to restructure our operations. To date, none of our working staff have tested positive but we want to take extra precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our customers and staff."

It announced that it has hired a sanitation crew to deep clean the building and would reopen when that is complete with new regulations regarding masks and temperature checks. No date for reopening was given.

Neighboring bar Will's Pub closed Friday after learning that a patron who been there Thursday night received a positive test result for COVID-19.


Pharmacy logo

Pharmacy, the craft cocktail bar and speakeasy restaurant in the Dellagio Plaza, is the latest to close after learning that a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.

A note addressed "Dear Phrmacy Family" on its Facebook page read: 

"As you may know, there has been a rise in the cases in Florida due to Covid 19 infections. In an abundance of caution to keep you, our staff and our farmers safe we have chosen to close down temporarily due to an employee that has tested positive today for Covid 19. We will Re-open July 13th."

Other restaurants or bars that have closed after learning that employees or customers had tested positive include Kiwi's Pub & Grill; the Citrus Club; and Will's Pub. Texas Roadhouse in Oviedo is also closed because of "staffing issues," which some say is related to a report that three employees had tested positive for the virus last week.


Wills logo

Mills 50 bars Will’s Pub, Lil Indies and Dirty Laundry are closed “at least through the weekend” after a customer who patronized them Thursday night received notice Friday that a test for COVID-19 had come back positive.

Owner Will Walker posted on his Facebook page that people who were in the bars between approximately 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Thursday may have been exposed. The customer, he wrote, was “in [an] especially loving mood and hugged people.” He added parenthetically that people should stop f-ing doing that.

Walker wrote that through a video he was able to identify some patrons who had contact with the person who has tested positive and has notified those people.

He said the bars would be closed so they could be cleaned and the staff could be tested.

“Here’s how this works,” Walker wrote, “if you’re f-ing sick stay home. If you feel bad enough to get a test... quarantine yourself. If you go out before you get your results you are a danger to everyone around you. You not only can get people sick you can shut down an entire business with your actions.”

He added: “Please be careful out there. Apparently people aren’t looking out for each other.”


The Texas Roadhouse in Oviedo did not open Thursday because it did not have enough employees to staff it, according to sources. Friday morning, the restaurant’s phone was ringing busy (calls are usually answered with a recording) and Desmond Yates, the managing partner, did not immediately respond to a direct message.

According to someone familiar with the restaurant but who spoke on the condition of anonymity, employees were told Tuesday that three coworkers had tested positive for COVID-19. Staff members were given the choice of staying at work or taking two weeks of unpaid leave. While some employees stayed, including some who had been in the restaurant the same time as the staffers who tested positive, too few showed up for their shifts on Thursday for the restaurant to open, though it could not be verified that the reason was the positive cases. A manager at another area Texas Roadhouse confirmed the Oviedo location was having “staffing issues” but could not give a reason.

A call to corporate headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, was not immediately returned.

Texas Roadhouse has more than 400 corporate-owned or franchised restaurants in 48 states. It originated in Clarksville, Indiana, in 1993 by W. Kent Taylor.

Last week, Kiwi’s Pub & Grill in Altamonte Springs closed after learning that a number of people infected with the coronavirus had been inside the restaurant in recent days.

This story will be updated.