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Some SWFL bars say they can stay open as restaurants, others must shut down

We spoke to the owners of more than a dozen bars Friday after the governor said bars must all quit the sale of alcohol consumption on their respective premises. Many owners said they’re staying open, telling us they serve just enough food to be classified as a restaurant.

Other bar owners have no option but to shut their doors. Closed for months, local bars were just starting to get back on their feet.

“It’s all your income, just dispersal and vaporizes,” said Raimond Aulen, the owner of The 86 Room. “You know, there’s no other way to make an income in a bar unless you’re selling drinks.”

Now, the state is banning the consumption of alcohol on premises at bars.

“No notice whatsoever,” said Russ Bellerose, the owner of Bar 17 in Charlotte County. “At least last time they shut us down, we had five hours’ notice to be out of business, and we could announce it. Today, effective immediately.”

The goal by the governor and the state is to limit crowds.

The state says, if alcohol sales are more than 50% of a business’s revenue, customers can no longer drink it on property.

Places such as Tequila Bar, Cork Soakers Deck and Wine Bar and the Dek Bar told us their food sales are allowing them to stay open.

“I enjoy going out,” said Marie Faye, who vacationing from Ohio. “But I’m in nursing, and I feel like closing of everything is, it’s the right way to go about things.”

Others said safety standards are where they should be.

“People keep their physical distance,” said Susan Agnellino in Lehigh Acres. “And I think it’s wrong.”

“I think it’s awful for the businesses themselves who have already had to close and have a limited capacity,” said Alexa Karinuk in Cape Coral.

In addition to The 86 Room, we know that Dixie Roadhouse and The Ranch Concert Hall & Saloon are closing down.

Fort Myers Brewing Company is also suspending its alcohol sales at its location. The brewing company is now doing to-go orders instead.

It’s not just the businesses taking a hit.

“People that left other jobs to come back to their original jobs, who now no longer have jobs again,” said Andrew Gray, the owner of Rackem Spirits and Times. “I feel bad for my staff.”

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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