Coronavirus puts iconic South Florida restaurant in 'different scenario,' owner says

Joe's Stone Crab has endured 'world wars, depressions, and civil unrest,' but the coronavirus is 'a different situation'

The owner of an iconic 107-year-old South Florida restaurant has never experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic.

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“This has been a very challenging year for us and for the restaurant industry,” Stephen Sawitz, owner of Joe's Stone Crab, told FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo on "Mornings with Maria" on Friday.

The restaurant has “approximately 500 employees” including fishermen, Sawitz said. It was the top-grossing independent restaurant in the U.S. in 2019.

Although the restaurant is running full staff and following the COVID-19 guidelines, Sawitz said, "everybody is concerned" and "worried."

"We haven’t let anybody go... But unfortunately, volume is down in the restaurant because of our seating capacity which has been mandated by the city and county,” Sawitz explained.

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As of Friday morning, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 52,824,078 people across 189 countries and territories, resulting in at least 1,294,657 deaths. In the U.S., all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, tallying more than 10,555,469 illnesses and at least 242,435 deaths.

The bar of Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab restaurant in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)

Sawitz emphasized that throughout the restaurant’s life-span, it has endured “world wars, depressions, and civil unrest," but the coronavirus is a "different scenario."

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“I have never personally seen anything like this. The only thing close to this was shortly after 9/11 which didn’t last that long. Of course, many people died tragically -- this is a different situation," he explained.

The "ace in the hole," according to Sawitz, has been the shipping business that "took off" after the pandemic "hit hard."

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Fox News’ David Aaro and Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.