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The number of occupational licenses is on the rise, says Halsey Beshears. Image via AP/Phil Sears.

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Business regulation chief Halsey Beshears apologetically defends bar restrictions

Beshears suggested DBPR took the lead on the policy.

Since announcing bar closures until the COVID-19 resurgence subsides, Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears has taken to Twitter to defend and explain the reversal.

Gov. Ron DeSantis had told Floridians the last two weeks that the Sunshine State wouldn’t renege on its reopening plans even as the pandemic skyrocketed in new and old hot spots. However, Friday’s restrictions mark the first reopening reversal by his administration, coming just three weeks after bars reopened.

Over the weekend, Beshears tweeted explanations and clarifications to his emergency order. Taprooms and breweries will follow the same restrictions, but restaurant bars will not.

The Secretary on Friday ordered the suspension of on-premises alcohol consumption at businesses that make the majority of their income from alcohol sales after deeming health enforcement efforts “impractical and insufficient.” He made the announcement shortly after the state saw a record-setting 8,942 new COVID-19 cases, a record that was again shattered the following day.

“We must forcefully flatten the curve. This decision was not a knee jerk reaction, nor was it made lightly, but based on evidence and the correlation in spikes after phase 2 reopening. We will get it right, then get people back to work ASAP,” Beshears tweeted Saturday morning.

The Secretary also tweeted consolations, replying to some Twitter users with “I am sorry,” including one user who asked about struggling bartenders.

“Nothing I say or do will stop the pain, small business owners are feeling. I empathize & understand, I’ve been there. It’s more then u: it’s your employees & the families they support. I’ll keep taking the hate, if it makes any of you feel better,” read another tweet.

DeSantis had remained adamant in recent weeks that Florida would see no reopening reversal with repeated assurances the state would not be rolling back, making the department’s order an unexpected development. But one tweet by the Secretary Saturday morning suggested the order didn’t originate from the Governor’s Office.

“@GovRonDeSantis allows his agencies to lead. This is why DBPR acted. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don’t. Great leaders lead & let their people lead. When we are wrong, great leaders correct it immediately. I’m proud he is our Gov, my Gov leading us through this,” he tweeted.

During a Friday press conference, DeSantis did not mention the bar restrictions — the big news of the day, apart from record-setting COVID-19 cases — until a reporter asked about what actions the state was taking to curb the pandemic’s resurgence.

“The reason why DBPR took it is because you had people that weren’t following it, there was widespread noncompliance, and that led to issues,” the Governor said. “So folks just follow the guidelines, we’re going to be in good shape.”

The order highlights an overnight change in narrative from the Secretary. On Thursday, Bershears encouraged businesses to play by the rules and “hang in there.”

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

However, a bar near the University of Central Florida 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. The Knight’s Pub in Orlando maintains the state’s account of its business practices were false.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Sonja Fitch

    June 28, 2020 at 5:16 am

    Beshears thank you for LEADING! Fried thank you for LEADING! We are in the first wave of covid! Duffus Desantis and looting Lenny and rick Scott and Rutherford are criminally negligent! Stay home! Wash hands Social Distance and wear a damn MASK!

    • Newel

      June 29, 2020 at 6:50 am

      People like you are destroying more lives than this so called virus ever will. Whatever your source of income is, I hope it is irreparably destroyed.

  2. Kathy

    June 29, 2020 at 8:23 am

    Closing random businesses like bars infringes on our Constitutional rights, and is harmful to business owners and employees. Since when do “we” punish hard working citizens trying to earn a living because “we need to forcefully flatten the curve” according to POS Halsey Beshear. Halsey punishes certain businesses for “not complying” while he continues to receive a paycheck and enrichment from the Florida tax payers. So he really doesn’t feel our pain as he falsely stated. Throw the bums out of office. Who names their kid “Halsey” anyway?

  3. not applicable

    June 29, 2020 at 9:19 am

    You will be looking for a new job!

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