Bars reopen in Florida at 50 percent capacity

Bars can officially reopen in Florida.

Bars were ordered to shut down after phase two of reopening took effect in Florida in June. The decision was made after a spike in COVID-19 cases statewide, with many tracing back to residents visiting bars.

However, on Thursday, the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) announced that bars across Florida will be permitted to reopen on Monday, Sept. 14, at 50 percent occupancy.

Read the full order issued below or view here (PDF).

“It’s time that we take this step, and it’s vital that we start moving forward with this sector of our hospitality industry who have endured one of the toughest paths for sustaining a business during this pandemic,” Halsey Beshears, secretary of the DBPR, said.

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In addition, Governor Ron DeSantis said that he will ease the COVID-19 restrictions on the state's restaurants as well. He believes that the current limitation of 50 percent capacity for indoor dining and requiring that tables be kept six-feet apart seems arbitrary.

Governor DeSantis said there is no evidence 50 percent is better than 70 percent or that six-feet is better than three-feet. He said restaurants will know best how to govern their behavior because they do not want to scare off customers. He gave no specifics on when the restrictions would be eased but said it will be soon.

The Governor added that he wants to make permanent a change that has allowed restaurants to sell carryout alcoholic beverages during the coronavirus pandemic. He believes that "alcohol to go" will help provide a source of revenue for restaurants, which have been forced to scale back their operations during the pandemic. The Florida Legislature would have to change state law to allow it permanently.

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While some bars are eager to reopen, others are waiting to open.

For example, Embassy Irish Bar in Downtown Orlando will not reopen until Wednesday so that workers can prepare.

"I want to do it properly," the owner of Embassy Irish Bar, Roger Wall, said. "I want to take my time and make sure I have all my ducks in a row. So when the folks come in from the county or the state and they want to see what we've done, then everything will be correct." 

Wall hopes though that his bar sees business come in, telling FOX 35 that "I don't know what level of business we're going to be at. You've got to make your money off 50% occupancy. It's not going to be easy."

Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.