Gualtieri Vows Strict Enforcement As Pinellas Limits Alcohol Sales; Beaches Remain Open

Mar 18, 2020
Originally published on March 18, 2020 7:44 am

Pinellas County officials are limiting restaurant alcohol sales, a day after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced his city will stop them at 9 p.m.

However, they are keeping beaches open for the time being.

Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton said restaurants in Pinellas will have to cease serving alcohol at 10 p.m.

RELATED: Hillsborough County To Limit Restaurant, Bar Hours And Patrons

“This is one additional measure not covered in the governor's order that we think will help keep our residents safe,” Burton said.

Earlier Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a 30-day closure of bars and nightclubs across the state. He also set decreased occupancy requirements and staggered seating for restaurants - 50% occupancy and parties have to be spaced out six feet apart.

People are allowed on beaches, said DeSantis, provided they're in groups of 10 or less and also leave room between people.

The governor said he wanted to give local municipalities the flexibility to pass additional measures and restrictions appropriate for their communities. 

RELATED: DeSantis: Bars Will Shut Down Statewide, Crowds Restricted At Restaurants And Beaches

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said state, county, and city measures are in line with Centers for Disease Control Prevention guidelines to help curtail COVID-19.

"This isn't targeting alcohol,” Gualtieri said. “This isn't targeting people when they're out there with their families having dinner, and going about their business. But this is about those people that are gathering in massive groups, and where the spread of this virus has the greatest chance of occurring."

Gualtieri said the sheriff’s department would rather just educate people, but will make arrests if needed.

"If people don't comply, we do have the tools available at our disposal to enforce the law and people should know that it is a crime,” Gualtieri said. “It is a criminal offense if they don't abide by any of these orders that have been issued from the state or here at the county level."

Gualtieri said if people comply, officials likely won't be forced to make difficult choices about shutting down restaurants and beaches entirely.

And the reasons beaches have not been shut down, Gualtieri said, is that doing so would force both residents and visitors into other, smaller locations where the coronavirus is more easily spread. 

He added: "those business owners, the hotel owners and those that operate all these properties, have asked us not to shut down the beaches because it affects their livelihood and affects their businesses and for a whole host of other reasons."

The county has a dedicated COVID-19 webpage with in-depth information, links to resources and archived news releases.

Pinellas County’s Emergency Operations Center is partially activated.

People with questions or concerns can call the Citizen Information Center at (727) 464-4333 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Friday. Those with hearing impairment can chat online at www.bit.ly/PinellasChat.