Walt Disney World, Universal, and other theme parks can now submit reopening plans to the state and local governments for review as Florida prepares to enter “full phase one” to restart its economy. Governor Ron DeSantis detailed what that entails at his latest press conference. Here we’ll cover the pertinent details, plus what this immediately means for Disney Springs and CityWalk.
Under the full phase one, restaurants will be able to increase their operating capacity to 50%. For the last couple of weeks during a partial phase one, restaurants could only fill 25% of their tables. Retail stores, museums, gyms, and libraries will likewise be able to reopen at 50% capacity. Florida’s new full phase one measures are effective beginning on Monday, May 18.
That follows the reopening of CityWalk at Universal Orlando earlier this week, which saw significant waits for seating at the few dine-in options that were open there (multiple reports on social media have shown hour-plus waits at Margaritaville being the norm). It likewise comes two days before the reopening of Disney Springs at Walt Disney World.
It’s unclear how Florida’s forthcoming full phase one plans will alter the operations of these restaurant and retail districts at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. While Disney Springs Released Official Plans & Policies earlier today and CityWalk has a page of Important Safety Guidelines, neither address capacity.
Restaurants throughout Central Florida have increased outdoor seating in an attempt to make their businesses viable and reduce wait times for tables. The increased outdoor seating plus this increase in capacity should help with that, as should more venues beginning to resume operations.
In the cases of both CityWalk and Disney Springs, there’s pent-up demand from locals as well as a general curiosity as to the mechanics and friction of safety measures. Initial reports out of Universal Orlando have pointed to fairly smooth opening days, albeit with modest crowds.
Even with no tourists around, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Only a handful of locations are open at CityWalk and capacity is a tiny fraction of a normal day. Being able to operate at half-capacity should entice more restaurants to reopen, spreading demand and resulting in smaller crowds congregated waiting outside.
As you can see on our List of Restaurants Reopening at Disney Springs & CityWalk, the Walt Disney World restaurant & retail district will have a significantly larger number of locations open from day one–but still nowhere near the full roster.
It remains to be seen whether the Disney Springs lineup will be enough to absorb guest demand. (In fairness, CityWalk venues had shorter notice–we’d expect more to be open next week.)
Turning to the parks themselves, DeSantis indicated that theme parks can now submit reopening plans to the State of Florida for review. These will need to include a specific target date they’d like to reopen the parks.
In addition, the plans should also include guidelines on how to protect guests and employees, and contain an endorsement from the local government. For Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, that will be coming from Orange County.
For its part, Orange County has largely expressed an attitude that mixes cautiousness and tempered enthusiasm towards reopening. Initial guidelines from the Economic Task Force suggested theme parks would likely open in the second phase, before indicating they’d defer to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando in creating tailored plans for their unique operations.
Many on the economic task force are eager to see Walt Disney World reopen because of the ramifications that will have on other area businesses. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings has repeatedly stressed the need to reassure and comfort the public that an emphasis is being placed on safety, and that businesses have ample time to procure supplies necessary for reopening.
After Governor DeSantis’ press conference, Mayor Demings stated that Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld have not sought approval to reopen. Demings indicated that he’s been in communication with the companies, and suspects they’ll first open portions of their properties like resorts and entertainment districts prior to the theme parks.
At his briefing, Mayor Demings stated that he believed Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando are looking at later dates to reopen, likely in “June or thereafter.” This is consistent with what came from the most recent Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force meeting, where Walt Disney World SVP Thomas Mazloum reiterated that the booking of reservations starting on July 1 is not necessarily indicative that the parks and resorts will be back up and running by then.
This also squares with Walt Disney World Delaying New Reservations Until July 1, 2020 and beginning to cancel reservations during the first week of June. At this point, it seems like any of the parks or resorts being operational in late June is a long shot. Despite Demings’ statement, we still question the notion that the resorts will operate prior to the parks. That’s the easier route, but tourists aren’t going to show up without the parks being open, and locals aren’t going to book nights at hotels.