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State News

Florida Bars And Breweries Get Green Light To Open Monday, At Limited Capacity

Virus Outbreak Florida
Brynn Anderson/AP
/
AP
Twon Dangelo closes the doors near 5 o'clock in the evening at McSorley's Beach Pub on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale Fla. Florida Gov. On that day, Ron DeSantis released a statement saying that all bars and nightclubs throughout Florida would close for the next 30 days. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

After months of having to endure closures, Florida bars, pubs and breweries will be allowed to reopen at limited capacity starting Monday.

It was Saint Patrick’s Day, one that would typically be one of the busiest days of the year for bars and pubs, when the order came down from Governor Ron DeSantis to close the drinking establishments.

“This morning when I got the news saying (DeSantis) was going to do it, my first reaction was – I broke down and started crying,” Lora Lowe, owner of Tallahassee’s Palace Saloon, said in March.

Lowe had to scramble for a plan to take care of her 11 employees as the state has shuttered her bar and all others in Florida.

“I have employees that I take care of their health insurance,” Lowe said the day she learned of the mandated closure. “And they get a paycheck and they make tips – how are they going to pay their rent, how are they going to buy groceries?”

That was the concern for many bar, pub and nightclub owners. Months later, a sign of relief.

Late Thursday night, secretary of the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation Halsey Beshears announced another phase of economic reopening: Bars will once again be able to serve customers at 50 percent indoor capacity, with limited outdoor service as well.

Governor Ron DeSantis held a media event with bar and brewery owners in Saint Petersburg a week before the reopen was announced.

“Just giving our citizens the ability to have some enjoyment in their life,” DeSantis said of reopening watering holes. “It’s been a long six months, almost, and I know people really yearn to have a sense of normalcy.”

The governor also pitched reopening bars as a potential driver of economic rebound, emphasizing the massive job loss in the hospitality and leisure industries.

“When you look at breweries, you guys obviously were hit very, very hard. Those are folks that you employ, who are working hard, and who need to have the ability to earn a living, so we’re very sensitive to that,” DeSantis told the brewery and bar owners on hand.

The state changed some rules in the months leading up to Thursday, trying to keep revenue coming in at a trickle for bars, like allowing to-go alcohol orders in sealed containers. Bars and pubs that had a license to serve food were permitted to operate as a restaurant, in order to keep customers coming in.

But Pete Boland, who owns two bars in Saint Petersburg, told the governor his businesses put safety measures in place, and just wanted a clear path forward.

“We’ve done more to create guest confidence,” Boland said during the press conference last week. “We’ve added REME Halo air scrubbers into our establishment to try to purify the air and eliminate some of the transitive airborne risk, and we just want some certainty going forward here.”

Boland’s establishments were among those that stayed open by serving food, but he said the past several months have made for a “trying time.” By building up consumer confidence, and people ensuring their individual safety, Boland thinks Florida is ready to take this step.

“I think people need to mitigate, take care of themselves,” he said. “I was with a close friend last night, who’s 69 years old – he’s got to be cautious. He’s a cancer survivor, he’s go t to be cautious. I think personal responsibility has got to rule the day.”

Meanwhile, overall COVID-19 cases have been trending down in Florida. Although there have been multiple days where 100 and 200-plus deaths recorded so far in September.