Newsy Nuggets

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First buffet reopens at Disney, local dive bar chickens out on its smoking policy, plus other stuff.

reimagined citricos at disneys grand floridian resort spaWDW photo by Matt Stroshane

Boma – Flavors of Africa, the all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, reopened Friday. Yes, a buffet. In a pandemic. Those things are sketchy in the best of times; not sure I’d feel safe wandering around the heat tables (Boma doesn’t use steam tables, it’s very state of the artsy) with a lot of other people and dishing up food from a communal spread. Maybe communal spread isn’t the right phrase. I’ve reached out to a WDW spokeswoman to see what, if any, protocols have been put in place but I haven’t heard back. Jiko – The Cooking Place remains closed, according to the WDW website.

Speaking of Walt Disney World restaurants and pandemics... as you know, most of the restaurants in the country pavilions are traditionally staffed by young people from those countries who come here on special work visas. But last year, as lockdowns loomed, most of the foreign workers were whisked back to their home countries to await a callback. They’re still waiting, and one restaurant official told me that they don’t expect to be able to bring staff back until at least April. And that was before the current surge. In the meantime, instead of a server whose name tag might read Chen from Chengdu, you might have Brian from Bithlo.

Also at Disney, Citricos at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, shown at top, has reopened with a new Mary Poppins theme. Cue “A Spoonful of Sugar.”

Some of you young people may not believe this but it wasn’t so very long ago that when you walked into a restaurant the first thing you were asked was “smoking or non?” Before 2003, when a constitutional amendment banning indoor smoking in workplaces was approved, it was darned near impossible to find a restaurant in Florida that didn’t have a designated smoking section. And quite frequently, the nonsmoking and smoking sections were in the same room.

The reason for the change had nothing to do with aesthetics – the legislators didn’t care a whit that your saumon fumé and fumé blanc came with extra smoke from the table next to yours. Ultimately, the change was made because it was determined that people who worked in businesses, including restaurants, deserved a smoke-free work environment.

Except people who worked in bars. Bars that did not generate more than 10 percent of revenue from food sales were exempt from the Clean Indoor Air Act, and still are. The argument was that people who liked to smoke while they drank would not go to a bar if they could not light up. Never mind that several states had already banned smoking in all businesses, including bars, with no loss in revenue. Even France (France!) where a carton of gauloises is considered a suitable gift for a one-year-old’s birthday had banned smoking, even in bars.

Some Florida bars, of course, banned smoking on their own. The old Wally’s was a notable holdout. You couldn’t stop in for even one drink without leaving smelling like you’d just been to a French toddler’s birthday party. The new Wally’s, however, has respect for its workers (and customers) and does not allow smoking.

Now another longtime holdout will be removing the ashtrays from the bar top. Whiskey Lou’s, a milkless Milk district mainstay, will ban smoking at the end of the month. I’d like to say it is for humanitarian reasons, but as Brendan O’Connor of Bungalower reports, the gin mill is bringing Itsa Chicken to sell its sandwiches from a new walkup window. So perhaps those food revenues will likely lift Lou’s above the exemption line. Whatever the reason, I’m glad to see another business where people can have a smoke-free work environment.

And you thought this was going to be a Newsy Nugget edition without the mention of a new chicken sandwicherie.

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