LAKE MARY, Fla. - The Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) announced on Thursday that bars across Florida will be permitted to reopen on Monday, Sept. 14, at 50% occupancy.
However, Palm Beach County announced that they would not be reopening bars on Monday. Palm Beach County officials made the announcement on Friday.
The reopening of bars and nightclubs is part of the county's Phase 2 of reopening.
Bars were ordered closed in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 29, issued the Phase 1 reopening plan under which establishments that derived more than 50% gross revenue from the sale of alcohol were directed to suspend those sales of beverages for on-premises consumption.
On June 3, Phase 2 was enacted, which allowed bars and other vendors to operate at 50% capacity (bars could reopen for seated service but nightclubs were not permitted to reopen).
After a spike in coronavirus in June, the DBPR once again suspended sales of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption at establishments that derived more than 50% gross revenue from the sale of alcohol.
Halsey Beshears, secretary of the DBPR, announced on Twitter that he was rescinding his emergency order issued in late June. Bars can once again serve alcohol beginning Monday at 12:01 a.m. Read the full order issued Thursday below or view here (PDF).
“It’s time that we take this step, and it’s vital that we start moving forward with this sector of our hospitality industry who have endured one of the toughest paths for sustaining a business during this pandemic,” Beshears said.
Restaurant owner Caroline Harvey couldn't be more excited.
"We’re a restaurant and the bars bring in the people. People have tried to circumvent bars and people really need, we need the nightlife," said Harvey, whose restaurant is Jam-Eng.
Some are still concerned that the reopening may cause another COVID spike.
"It' a dumb idea. People are still sick so we shouldn’t be doing it. People want to gather together and that’s probably the best place to do it but it’s not the time," said Bryce Vastey, who lives in Apopka.
"I think we are responsible adults, and as long as there are guidelines," Harvey added.
Earlier Thursday, Gov. DeSantis said he intended to ease the coronavirus restrictions on the state's restaurants as well. He told a meeting of restaurant industry executives in Fort Myers that the current limitation of 50% capacity for indoor dining and requiring that tables be kept 6-feet apart seems arbitrary.
He said there is no evidence 50% is better than 70% or that 6-feet is better than 3-feet. He said restaurants will know best how to govern their behavior because they don't want to scare off customers. He gave no specifics on when the restrictions would be eased but said it will be soon.
Gov. DeSantis also said he wants to make permanent a change that has allowed restaurants to sell carryout alcoholic beverages during the coronavirus pandemic. DeSantis included what he calls “alcohol to go” in a March executive order to help provide a source of revenue for restaurants, which have been forced to scale back their operations during the pandemic. The Florida Legislature would have to change state law to allow it permanently.
“I do think that it’s been successful, and I would encourage the Legislature to just make that permanent, because I think that you guys need all the help you can get, and I think it would make a lot of sense,” DeSantis told the restaurant operators. “So I’m for it being permanent. And I think that you’ll probably get a pretty good reception in the Legislature, just based on the experience and just based off everyone having to go through what you guys have gone through.”
Some information taken from wire sources.