COVID Pandemic’s Influence on South Florida’s Leisure District – NBC 6 South Florida

Our look at the pandemic effect takes us into an entertainment district that has seen many ups and downs over the past year.

It’s an area you’ve likely been in: Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.

“Nobody really knew, I mean, we were all hopeful, people were scared, business owners were scared, they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know what to do,” says Jodi Tanner, vice president of die Las Olas Association.

The area is Fort Lauderdale’s premier dining, shopping, and activity destination. Tanner is best at telling you that on any given day of the week you would see locals and tourists walking the sidewalk.

When the country closed last March, the boulevard was far from busy.

“It’s been a tough time to be honest,” says Alex Variu, Gran Forno manager.

Gran Forno kept its shop front open during the pandemic, removed seating during start-up, and tried to accommodate all other requests.

“It was tough, the shop was open, we tried to keep it open because the chain stores didn’t have any bread and we tried to help everyone as much as possible,” says Variu.

Marc Leach, pharmacist and owner of The Chemist, can relate to it being a Las Olas staple for 16 years.

“I came in every day during the pandemic and I’d say I’m just one of the happiest guys,” says Leach.

Lucky because they survived the pandemic roller coaster. Some of their neighbors weren’t so lucky.

“It’s tough, it’s not just them, there are a lot of restaurants that are closed and also a lot of businesses, not just restaurants,” says Variu.

Las Olas lost some favorite spots like Timpano Chophouse and Moda Mario, as well as some new editions like Etaru and Talento. They closed the store during the pandemic.

However, when some doors were closed, new stores opened. Las Olas as we once knew it has changed and now there is a rebirth of livelihoods.

“In a really bad situation, people get a little reinvigorated to get out of there, make dreams come true and open the store, open the restaurant,” says Tanner.

Vinos, a small business right on Las Olas, expanded its business and moved across the street. Quiet Waters is a new surf shop. A new jewelry store just opened last month.

There’s Eddie Vs Harborwood at the Hyatt Centric, Hemp Café, and Salt 7th Cuba Libre, a 9,000-square-foot modern Cuban restaurant and pub. will open this month.

“Yeti is doing fantastic and they started in the worst time ever,” says Tanner.

There are more new spots on the way. Las Olas is just one of the many entertainment spots that have changed a lot over the past year. Finally, a year later, companies started talking to NBC 6 about seeing the silver lining and getting back to pre-pandemic levels.