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State orders bars can reopen at 50% capacity beginning Monday

The secretary for the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation says the state has rescinded the executive order affecting the way bars can operate in the state during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bars will now be allowed to operate at 50% capacity beginning Monday, FDBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears tweeted Thursday.

After Gov. DeSantis gave direction to FDBPR, Secretary Beshears issued Emergency Order 2020-10, which rescinds the FDBPR Amended Emergency Order 2020-09 effective on Monday.

According to the press release, under FDBPR Emergency Order 2020-10, bars and other alcoholic beverage vendors may resume sales of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises on Monday, provided that their operations comply with the parameters of Phase 2 of the Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step Plan for Florida’s Recovery as established in Executive Order 20-139.

Beginning Monday, these vendors may operate at 50% of the facility’s indoor capacity, allow bar service to seated patrons and permit outdoor seating and service with appropriate social distancing.

“In meetings with hundreds of owners of bars and breweries across the state, I’ve heard their stories of struggle, and I’ve observed their serious commitment to making health and safety a continuing priority in their businesses,” Beshears was quoted in the press release. “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.”

That parameters of the new order means no dancing or getting up to socialize with people at other tables at a bar. That’s something bar owners said they hoped to get the green light for in addition to reopening.

Russ Bellerose, the owner of Bar 17 in Charlotte County, is less worried about what he can’t do.

“Just let me turn my open light on,” he said. “That’s all I want.”

Bellerose says it’s easier to count the days he’s been open than shut down.

“Seventeen days of being open since March 17,’ Bellerose said.

Bellerose is thrilled to open his business back up once again.

Still, other bar owners saying reopening is not enough.

“Telling people they can’t dance, you know, that’s half the reason why a lot of these girls go out on a Friday and Saturday night,” said Raimond Aullen, the 86 Room owner in downtown Fort Myers. “Because they want to dance. They want to have some fun. They want to burn off some energy.”

People we spoke to the restrictions lifted for bars and all restaurants.

“I mean, there’s a big thing here. It’s not just the epidemic,” said Daniel Singh in Fort Myers. “It’s also there’s a longer-term impact on the community, restaurants, bars.”

Gov. DeSantis said he is looking at allowing restaurants to increase their capacity beyond 50%. But if social distancing remains, that could still mean fewer tables.

“So, for us, we might be able to add one more table, but even that would help,’ said. Yuriy Fedoriv, the owner of Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls.

For more information, visit Florida Department of Businesses & Professional Regulations.

MORE: Emergency Order to Reopen Bars in Florida at 50% Capacity

Gov. DeSantis backs permanent ‘alcohol to go’

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday 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.

During a meeting Thursday in Fort Myers with restaurant operators, DeSantis said he will keep the policy so long as the order remains in place, but the 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.”

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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