bars

Bars throughout Florida are opening their doors this week for full service. In an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the state government had limited bars without a restaurant license to serving alcohol for off-premise drinking only. That rule has been repealed, but getting by in the meantime has been hard for a few Tallahassee establishments.

After many establishments were closed for months amid the coronavirus pandemic, Florida’s top business regulator believes bar and craft-brewery owners will do a better job this time of self-enforcing state safety restrictions.

But Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears said Wednesday his agency won’t go easy on bars and breweries that violate rules such as indoor occupancy limits.

State officials sounded the foghorn Monday to let bars serve on-premise alcohol again, but for many Florida establishments, it wasn’t much of a change. Bars throughout Leon County have been using a workaround that allowed them to operate as restaurants.

After a state-wide shutdown, bars were allowed to reopen early in June, but that didn’t last long. State officials said too many people were gathering in large groups and weren’t following social distancing guidelines. They limited bars to serving alcohol only for off-premise consumption. Then officials made another change.

Reopening Offers Florida Bar Owners A Lifeline

Sep 16, 2020
Zoom screenshot / WMFE

Florida bars have been thrown a lifeline with the decision to allow them to reopen at 50 percent capacity. The easing of restrictions took place Monday.

When he announced the move to reopen bars on Friday, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears said he’d talked to hundreds of bar and brewery owners and seen their commitment to health and safety.

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The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation removed its statewide ban on bars, but in Palm Beach County, restrictions will remain in place.

The county’s step-by-step approach to Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan allows county commissioners to consider spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Orange Co. Mayor Prepared To Shut Down Bars If They Lead To Outbreaks

Sep 14, 2020
bar scene
Patrick Tomasso

Ahead of bars reopening on Monday, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said most owners will follow health safety protocols in order to remain open.

But Demings said special agents from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation along with Orange County strike teams will work weekends to monitor them just in case.

When the coronavirus swept the country, a lot of things government did in response were controversial. Politicians fought over mask-wearing rules and quarantine restrictions.

But one policy, making sure Americans have ready access to alcohol, was truly bipartisan.

"The State Liquor Authority is going to change its rules that will allow bars, restaurants and distilleries to sell their products off-premises," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, in mid-March.

beer taps behind bar
News Service of Florida

Florida bars can open the taps again Monday.

Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears announced Thursday he was rescinding an emergency order that prevented onsite consumption of alcohol at bars amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Hot dogs, cold sandwiches and Hot Pockets admittedly aren’t fancy fare.

But low-budget, hassle-free cuisine might be a financial godsend for desperate bar owners who’ve been sidelined for months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tavern owners throughout the state hurriedly are rehabbing behind-the-counter operations, adding triple sinks, carving out prep areas and signing up for food-handling training so they can get the go-ahead from state regulators to turn the lights back on.

Governor Ron DeSantis talked with local brewery owners Thursday in St. Petersburg about their business struggles due to the coronavirus pandemic, and their prospects for fully reopening.

"We started out down 70 to 75 percent in the middle of all of this. We are down less than half now," said Mike Harting, who runs Three Daughters Brewing.

"That confidence is definitely coming back in the consumer," he said.

Public health advocates have lobbied hard in recent years to clear restaurants, bars and other workplaces of tobacco smoke, and the winds seem to be at their back.

Already, 36 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some version of an indoor smoking ban to protect the health of workers and patrons, and many local communities in other states have followed suit.