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Coronavirus in Florida

Florida closes bars again as COVID-19 cases spike

The abrupt announcement comes amid more record case numbers.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation ordered the suspension of on-premises alcohol consumption at bars around the state Friday after health enforcement efforts were deemed to be “impractical and insufficient.”

“The number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 increased significantly in the State of Florida and some of these cases involving younger individuals are suspected to have originated from visits to bars, pubs, or nightclubs who have disregarded the restrictions,” the order said.

“Noncompliance by bars and other vendors license to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises is suspected throughout the state to such a degree as to make individualized enforcement efforts impractical and insufficient at this time.”

The announcement was tweeted by DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears shortly after Florida reported nearly 9,000 new COVID-19 cases.

“Effective immediately, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is suspending on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars statewide,” Beshears tweeted.

Restaurants are not impacted by the order. However, businesses that derive more than 50% of their gross revenue from alcohol sales must suspend on-site consumption.

The order highlights an overnight change in narrative from the Secretary.

Yesterday, Bershears encouraged businesses to play by the rules and “hang in there.”

“EO-139 states restaurants & bars may operate at 50% of their indoor capacity, excluding employees,” Beshears tweeted less than 24 hours ago. “Bar areas may be open with seated service. Outdoor seating is permissible with social distancing. Stay compliant, hang in there & let’s get this right Florida.”

Most bars reopened in early June as a step in Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s Phase Two plan to reopen Florida.

The bars reopened with strict health guidelines including mask mandates for employees and proper social distancing measures.

The reopening and enforcement of bar and restaurant restrictions raised eyebrows among some circles for being loosely enforced.

A bar near the University of Central Florida, however, lost its liquor license this week for a lack of safety measures and became the poster child for state officials’ vow to crack down on coronavirus scofflaws.

Knight’s Pub in Orlando maintains the state’s account of its business practices were false.

COVID-19 numbers have surged in recent days and set record highs in some areas for the Sunshine State.

In total, 122,960 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the Sunshine State, including 2,386 non-residents. The prior daily record was 5,511, set Wednesday.

 

Written By

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at jason@floridapolitics.com or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.

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