Walt Disney World could reopen some retail and dining locations soon

A new set of guidelines from the state government means Walt Disney World could start to reopen some of its retail and dining locations as early as next week. The Florida Governor has given local governments in central and north Florida the green light to enter ‘phase one’ of reopening beginning of Monday if they determine it is safe to do so.

Update: May 1, 2020 — Walt Disney World sent out an alert on the My Disney Experience mobile app that Disney Springs, like the rest of WDW, remains closed until further notice. That said some employees of non-Disney owned locations have reported that they’ve been told to expect to return to work on or before May 8. That doesn’t mean any locations will be open, it might just be the want employees to come back for a meeting or to help clean up and restock before opening. We still are waiting for official word on when Disney Springs might open, but it sounds like it won’t happen on Monday.

Retail stores, like the giant World of Disney will be allowed to welcome up to 25% of capacity. Physical distancing must be maintained. So expect some cash registers to be closed, lines on the ground to indicate how far apart to wait in queues, and a queue to line up outside when the store reaches 25% capacity. 

Restaurants will also be allowed to reopen. They are only allowed to seat 25% of dining room capacity and tables must be at least six feet apart. Restaurants will also be allowed to seat guests outside. There’s no capacity limit for outdoor seating, but physical distancing must be enforced. Employees will have to wear masks and guests should wear masks when not eating.

Not included in the phase one reopenings are movie theaters or other places where large crowds may gather (like theme parks or concert venues), gyms, and personal beauty care. 

Every location that reopens will have to test employees for fever and other symptoms and provide their employees with masks and sanitizer. Hand sanitizer for guests before entering the story is recommended as well.

What this means for Walt Disney World is that it can start to think about opening its dining and retail locations. It will most likely open Disney Springs locations first and allow its third party tenants to open as well, if they have a plan to meet the new guidelines. 

Locations are allowed to set their own guidelines, so if DIsney wants to insist on stricter guidelines or delay reopening, it can do so.

Some Dining locations at Disney Springs already have a significant amount of outdoor dining available (Chicken Guy, Planet Hollywood’s downstairs bar, Morimoto Asia, The Boathouse, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, and a couple others. Other locations could move out some of their chairs and tables into public areas. If they do so, I’d hope they provide a tent for some protection from the elements. 

Some other things I’d like to see Disney Springs offer: complimentary or low-cost masks for guests who don’t have them, ejection of guests who refuse to wear masks when not eating, addition of plenty of hand sanitizing and hand washing stations, and limiting parking to surface lots (at least initially to avoid needing to use the elevators). 

Some stores will want to indicate one way traffic in narrow parts of the store, like you see in grocery stores. 

Retail stores are likely to reopen first as they have stock ready to sell and recalling furloughed employees can happen relatively overnight. Restaurants will take a bit longer to ramp up. 

Unlike your neighborhood restaurants that have continued pickup and delivery, almost all Disney Springs dining locations have closed their kitchens and emptied out their storerooms. That means they’ll need to contact suppliers and arrange deliveries of the essential food items they need to reopen. That will take a few more days.

We should hear from the Orange County Mayor on Friday as to when he expects to allow Orange County Florida, where most of Walt Disney World is located, to enter phase one of the reopen plan. Based on his comments yesterday, it might be another week or two. 

After the county makes its announcement, we should get official word from Disney as to a firm date for when it might reopen Retail and Dining locations at Disney Springs, or even other parts of the resort where guests can enjoy a meal without entering the parks.

We look forward to the day when the public health emergency is over and hope everyone maintains physical distancing and wears masks to help keep the transmission rate as low as possible.

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