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Bars And Restaurants Open At Full Capacity As Florida Lifts Coronavirus Restrictions For Phase Three Reopening

Ron DeSantis
John Raoux/AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Universal Studios Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Governor Ron DeSantis has removed state-wide operating restrictions for bars and restaurants. Under an order signed Friday, the businesses will be able to return to full capacity indoors. It's a change from the 50% capacity limit that had been in place as part of an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“There will not be limitations from the state of Florida. In fact, we’re cognizant about the need for business certainty," DeSantis said during a press conference Friday. "There have been some local closures and other types of restrictions. The order I’m signing today will guarantee restaurants can operate—it will not allow closures. They can operate at a minimum of 50% regardless of local rule."

DeSantis says local governments can make some restrictions, but they won’t be able to keep bars or restaurants from operating at less than 50% capacity. And they’ll be required to explain any limits they do set.

The order also extends to other types of businesses, like banquet halls, which DeSantis said have been blocked from operating in some communities.

“Every business has a right to operate. Some of the locals, they can do reasonable regulations, but you can’t just say no. You can’t say no after six months and have them just twisting in the wind.”

The governor acknowledges coronavirus cases could increase as part of what some are calling a "second wave." He says state healthcare workers are ready for that and he doesn’t expect the need for a return to statewide closures in the future.

“We’re prepared if we see an increase. We’re not closing anything going forward. But I think if you look at our hospital capacity, if you look at what we did to marshal all the latest medications, if you look at the PPE, we have what we need," DeSantis said.

Meanwhile, some are already pushing back on the governor’s reopening plan. Florida PIRG, a public interest research group, argues allowing bars and restaurants to reopen for full capacity indoor dining could prolong the spread of the coronavirus, and delay recovery for some parts of the state’s economy.