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Prospering despite the pandemic

STORY BY STEPHANIE LABAFF (Week of August 20, 2020)
Photo: Vince Pellegrino takes plates of food from the kitchen out to the guests dining in the covered outdoor space at Vinz on Friday, August 14, 2020.

“In the eight years that I’ve been in business, this is the best summer I’ve ever had.”

That’s the amazing report of island restaurateur Zandra Simm, whose Vinz Wine & Dine is not just surviving the coronavirus pandemic – but has come up with a two-pronged strategy for prospering during a challenging Vero Beach summer.

The first part of the strategy involved shifting the emphasis – despite the summer heat – from the cozy, air-conditioned confines of her attractively decorated wine bar, and taking advantage of the outdoor space at Pelican Plaza.

“When people did start to come back out, they really wanted to be outdoors. I’ve got all this outdoor space [in the atrium at the Pelican Plaza]. The businesses are all closed after 5 p.m., and that’s when I open. I can really spread them out and do the proper spacing.”

Last year, Simm said she couldn’t pay people to sit outside during the summer. This year, however, is a different story. “I rarely sit anybody inside anymore. Now, they’re just fine with whatever breeze there is. They just sit and enjoy the music.”

The patio, which features live music many nights, is covered, which means that summertime storms don’t adversely affect the dining experience.

“I’ve created this little niche. People want to be outdoors, and that’s what’s saving me this summer,” Simm noted.

But the second key to Simm’s success was her decision to do something virtually unheard of in the restaurant world – stay dark on Saturdays.

Many Vinz regulars are members of island clubs, Simm said, and they like to dine at their clubs on Saturday nights. So she decided to close on Saturdays, and instead serve dinner on Mondays, when many club dining rooms and restaurants are closed.

“Now, Mondays are one of my busiest nights,” she said. “I have to turn people away on Friday nights, typically. That’s the night everybody wants to go out. So at least two days a week are like season days for me. I’m completely sold out.

“We do at least four times the business we would have done in the previous summers,” said Simm.

Not bad for a pandemic.