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FDB&PR Director Halsey Beshears appears before an Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force working group, via Zoom. Screen grab is from Orange County TV.

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Halsey Beshears: Locals should figure out details on reopening plan

Florida’s top business regulator Halsey Beshears says local governments should fine-tune reopening plans.

Saying that Florida should not pursue a one-size-fits-all approach to reopening business across the state, Department of Business and Professional Regulations Secretary Halsey Beshears said local governments have the responsibility to work out many details.

“Let’s not overthink this,” Beshears said Friday, answering detailed questions about what the state would or would not allow, as businesses begin to reopen Monday under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ phase one plan to reopen the economy.

Beshears spoke on Zoom Friday morning before Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings‘ Economic Recovery Task Force working group, which is preparing its recommendations on how Orange County should address timetables and rules for businesses to reopen.

His comments come as local governments like Orange County try to make sense of some of the ambiguity in the first phase Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. plan DeSantis unveiled Wednesday. Local governments across the state are determining how to apply guidelines and mandates in that plan locally.

Beshears, who heads the state agency licensing more than 1.4 million businesses and individuals, said the business and social environments of the Panhandle, the I-4 corridor, and South Florida are so different it doesn’t make sense for the state to try to overly micromanage the reopening with blanket details.

“We have to find a way to figure this out. And I think Gov. DeSantis has been very vocal about how he is going to look to the local municipalities on how to deal best with dealing with this pandemic moving forward,” Beshears said.

He also sided with business owners in the Orange County meeting who told him they wanted to see a more aggressive business reopening schedule, allowing restaurants to open with 50% capacity, and barber shops and other businesses to open soon. Beshears said he is advocating for those recommendations, and believes they would be allowed sooner rather than later. But he also insisted it was not his call.

“On the restaurant deal, I’m with you. We can make recommendations all day long and at the end of the day my boss made the call. And like I said, he takes his job very seriously, and I think he wants everyone to be safe,” Beshears.

“On the restaurant deal, I do believe that this gets changed sooner rather than later,” he added. “I understand, there’s a break-even point that every business has… so restaurants at 25%,, that doesn’t work. That is why I am glad [the Governor] latched on to the outdoor seating part of this. I want to be clear on this, and this is how we’re going to regulate this:

“If that outside seating area can seat 100 people, then you can seat 100 people, as long as you can practice those social distancing guidelines,” he said.

Someone asked if they could get in trouble serving liquor outdoors into a parking lot.

Not from the state, Beshears responded.

“We’re not going to let it jeopardize your liquor license. We’re going to let you do it. But what we’ve said all over the state is you really need to work with your local jurisdictions. … But you will not be losing your liquor license from us for doing that right now and trying to get people seated outside,” he said.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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