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Florida bars can reopen at 50% capacity on Monday

TAMPA (WFLA) — Bars across Florida will be allowed to reopen on Monday at 50% capacity, state officials announced Thursday.

The state is rescinding an emergency order that was issued in late June, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears announced Thursday night on Twitter.

The June 26 order suspended the sale of alcohol for on-premise consumption at bars, or businesses that “derive more than 50 percent of gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages.” Businesses were allowed to continue selling alcohol in sealed containers to be consumed off-premises.

“When people follow the guidelines, we’ve not had any problems. We’ve not had any issues. The reason why DBPR took it is you didn’t have people following it, there was widespread non-compliance and that led to issues,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at the time. “If folks just follow the guidelines, we’re going to be in good shape. When you depart from that, it becomes problematic.”

Restaurants were not impacted by that order in June. They were still allowed to sell food and drinks to be consumed on-premises. Current guidelines from the state only allow restaurants to operate at 50% capacity indoors.

Since the emergency order was put in place, many brewery and bar owners expressed how eager they were to be given the chance to reopen again.

“We want everyone to be open, and we want everyone to be safe,” John McMahan added. “However, the lack of communication, the lack of transparency, the lack of enforcement of those that are open right now is mind-blowing.”

Citrus County bar owner Jerry Wells said he too applied for the DBPR license to sell food. He said bar owners who didn’t get creative likely are not bar owners anymore.

“It’s sad that they really didn’t care about the bar business or the people, the patrons, those who work for them. It’s really sad that way, and it’s evident they didn’t care because they took their sweet time to open us,” Wells said.

In late July, those in the craft beer brewing industry in Florida sent a letter to DeSantis and the secretary of DBPR to voice their concerns over their businesses being forced to close.

“The entire Florida craft brewing industry is now in jeopardy,” the letter said.

Earlier Thursday, DeSantis held a roundtable at a restaurant in Fort Myers and said he planned to soon ease restrictions. During the meeting, said the current limitation of 50% capacity for indoor dining and requiring that tables be kept 6 feet apart seems arbitrary.

“Why 50 and not 40? Why 50 and not 70? And then the 6-foot is not evidence-based, per se. The World Health Organization says 3-foot distance. In Asia, they are doing less than that. I think they do 2, two-and-a-half feet. Europe does less than 6. Are they not doing science or are we not doing science?” DeSantis said.

DeSantis suggested eateries will know best how to govern their behavior as they don’t want to scare off customers by becoming coronavirus hot spots.

Meanwhile, the state reported 213 new deaths Thursday, the highest daily total in more than three weeks. That brings Florida’s overall death toll to 12,482.

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