Thank you to Lisa Santos who shared her heartfelt write up with us. We can feel the pain, but as Lisa writes, we will be back, and much stronger than ever before.

Ghost Town

By Lisa Santos

Friday night is normally a busy time for Downtown Sanford. It’s packed with people enjoying dinner, drinks, and social time together. Local bands play favorite tunes and there is always something cool going on. Pub hopping is fun and if you’re out for dinner there are several hot spots and great places you can go to for outstanding food and drinks. Downtown Sanford is the place to be!

Then came COVID 19 and, just like that, in an instant Downtown Sanford is a ghost town. This once thriving downtown was brought to its knees by a virus the likes of which this proud nation has never seen. The order for bars to close and restaurants to serve only curbside take-out brought this downtown to a standstill. Instead of social time together we now are social distancing from each other, six feet apart. How could something so small, bring not just this quaint downtown to its knees, but the whole world. That’s a question we all want an answer to.

We took a drive to downtown Sanford while out shopping for much needed food, and we saw sights we had never seen before. As we drove down First Street we were latterly faced with a ghost town. We saw not a soul on the normally crowded streets. Normally open pubs and bars locked up tight, and shops with their windows dark. No music could be heard, nobody holding hands; no one dancing or merrymaking. It was enough to bring tears to our eyes, knowing what this place we love is usually like.

Then we saw something that really got to these Central Floridians. One of the biggest hot spots in downtown Sanford, Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe, empty! This local German restaurant that’s always packed to its maximum with people had not a soul inside. Its tables instead of being filled with food and drink, had chairs stacked on top of them and the inside was completely dark. A single lone table was set up outside for those who wanted to order take out.

This hotspot which was featured on the TV show Raw Travel had just expanded and remodeled due to its popularity. Now, instead of it being filled with people listening to its great music and enjoying its awesome food, it was empty. Like the bars and pubs and shops all over downtown Sanford it too was dark and facing uncertain times.

Uncertain times for any bar, restaurant, pub and shop are scary times for their owners. All business owners will agree that closing their doors for more than several days can already cause financial trouble. As costumers we often forget that these places we frequent have bills to pay. Bills that are difficult to pay on takeout orders alone. These times are exceptionally difficult for businesses all across this nation, not just in Downtown Sanford.

Sanford, we wrap our arms around you and say hang on. We will get through this and we stand behind you. We know these are hard times for you and you are in every thought and prayer. Hang on and know that this too will pass, and once it does, we will be back. We will be back and fill this town with songs and laughter. We will be back to drink, eat, dance and have social time with each other. We will be back walking in your streets and shopping in your shops.

We look forward to block parties and concerts in the pubs and parks. We know you’re scared and worried but know we are too, you’re not alone.

Central Floridans, these are difficult times for us all, but we will get through this. We will rise above this as only Central Floridans can and come out stronger. Let us promise Sanford that we will be back, and once this passes, we will be back stronger then ever before and make Downtown Sanford the place to be.