Florida looks for ‘way forward’ on bars

Florida bars
“Nothing I say or do will stop the pain, small business owners are feeling."

Florida’s ban on serving alcohol to people in bars will be reevaluated daily, the state’s top business regulator said in a series of tweets over the weekend that also offered apologies for the crackdown.

Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is “trying to figure out a way forward” for bars, nightclubs and craft breweries that are essentially having to shut down again because of “widespread non-compliance” with coronavirus guidelines — non-compliance he attributed mostly to young adults who are “going to do what they’re going to do.”

“My view is, I’d rather have those places open, complying,” DeSantis said during a news conference on coronavirus response efforts at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. “I think that’s probably less risky than what a lot of the young people end up doing. They’re still going to do things, most likely. And you may end up doing things in ways that are that are even more risky.”

Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, issued an order Friday suspending on-site consumption of alcohol at bars amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the state. The order doesn’t affect restaurants or other businesses that derive 50 percent or less of their gross revenue from the sale of alcohol.

Bars had been allowed to reopen June 5 in the second phase of DeSantis’ effort to revitalize the economy. They were limited to 50 percent indoor capacity and were only supposed to provide service to seated customers.

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

“We must forcefully flatten the curve,” he continued. “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 pointed to the difficulty faced by bar owners when Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, tweeted late Saturday that, “If I owned a Bar I would open up immediately.”

“I’ll play this game,” Beshears replied. “So you have a bar and u opened last night. Your max occupancy is 200 people. 200 show up. What do you do?”

Under Beshears’ order, bars are allowed to sell drinks in “sealed containers” for off-site consumption.

To one Twitter post that said, “Florida once again providing living proof that, as a society, we cannot handle having nice things,” Beshears simply replied, “I’m sorry.”

To a Twitter user who expressed that “Alcohol is not essential,” Beshears replied, “Many would probably disagree with this statement.”

When asked why the state didn’t just suspend or revoke licenses of establishments that violated the rules, Beshears noted incidents were widespread of bars exceeding the guidelines.

“We did that earlier this week,” Beshears responded in a tweet. “Since it’s so widespread and the infected demographic so clear, we needed to grab this forcefully and immediately. Am going to consider this daily moving forward.”

Last Monday, Beshears’ department suspended the license of the Knight’s Pub in Orlando for violating the terms of DeSantis’ order that allowed bars to reopen.

The number of coronavirus cases has soared in Florida this month, with the Department of Health on Sunday reporting an additional 8,530 cases. DeSantis has repeatedly cited young adults as a major reason for the spike and focused on how the virus does not cause as many deaths and serious medical problems for young people as it does for seniors and people with underlying health conditions.

But the Florida Democratic Party in an online ad Sunday took a shot at DeSantis for his claims that Florida had a hold on the virus in May.

“Despite two consecutive record-shattering days this weekend, DeSantis wants us to believe that nothing has changed and that we are on the path to reopening the economy safely,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a statement Sunday. “With nearly 10,000 cases confirmed just yesterday (Saturday), it has never been more clear that DeSantis failed Florida. Like his mentor Donald Trump, DeSantis is playing politics instead of prioritizing the health and safety of Floridians.”


Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Jim Turner

Jim Turner is a Capitol reporter for the News Service of Florida, providing coverage on issues ranging from transportation and the environment to Legislative and Cabinet politics, which are some of the areas he worked in 20 years with TCPalm in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. Jim grew up in Millburn, New Jersey, where he started his journalism career providing weekly reports on the high school soccer team --- of which he was a member--- to the local Millburn Item. Jim received degrees in journalism and history from High Point University in North Carolina.

One comment

  • Sonja Fitch

    June 29, 2020 at 6:21 am

    Thank you Beshears! Duffus Desantis is criminally negligent in protecting and serving the folks in Florida. Duffus Desantis only does to please the goptrump cult sociopath racist sexist liar leader trump! Shut Florida down! Stay home. Social distance. Wash hands. Wear a damn mask. Duffus Desantis Florida is number one in 72 hour covid positives. Do not let the RNC anywhere near Florida! No large group is worth it!!!

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