Florida bars, pubs, theaters, more reopen as part of Phase 2

DeSantis moves most of Florida into second phase of reopening after pandemic

Starting today...Florida moves into phase two of the state's reopening plan. News4Jax reporter Lena Pringle is joining us to break down what this means for businesses across the state.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced this week that most of Florida can enter Phase 2 of economic recovery beginning on Friday.

This next phase would allow bars and pubs to reopen at 50% capacity inside and full capacity outside. Movie theaters will also be allowed to open their doors.

RELATED: Florida movie theaters can reopen doors Friday under DeSantis’ Phase 2 plan

In May, Tom Whittingslow, the owner of Pete’s Bar in Neptune Beach, said he was frustrated that his business had to remain closed while restaurants could reopen. He said the owners of the bar sent two letters to the governor, asking him to reopen bars.

Now, he’s relieved his business can finally reopen.

Excluded from the move are Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, which have been the hardest hit by coronavirus.

Here’s what Phase 2 includes according to the slides the governor presented on Wednesday:

  • Restaurants: Can allow bar-top seating with social distancing
  • Bars/pubs: Can operate at 50% capacity inside, full capacity outside with social distancing
  • Retail: Full capacity with social distancing and sanitization protocols
  • Gyms: Full capacity with social distancing and frequent sanitization
  • Entertainment businesses (movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, bowling alleys): 50% capacity with social distancing and sanitization
  • Betting businesses: Submit request to state including endorsement from mayor
  • Personal services (tattoo parlors, acupuncture, tanning salons, massage salons): May operate while adhering to DOH guidance
  • Age 65+ or with underlying conditions: Avoid crowds
  • Long-term care facility workers: Get tested routinely
  • Everyone: Avoid congregating in groups of 50+

DOCUMENT: Executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis

Before the announcement, Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson wrote the governor over the weekend that many of these businesses in the small Flagler County community are struggling to stay afloat.

“Those who have been able to operate, have survived up to this point. The owners who were mandated to close are about to lose their businesses,” Robinson wrote. “The local bars and veterans’ organizations are looking for support to be able to reopen, safely abiding with the rules and guidelines set up through CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and your office. They are barely holding on, hoping they can survive to reopen and begin to look (to) rebuild their future.”

Okeechobee County Commissioner Terry Burroughs told The News Service of Florida he’s anxious to reopen social clubs, especially those that serve vets, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and AMVETS. He said the clubs serve a critical need in the community.

“That’s the only meal that those veterans a lot of times get. I can’t get them open because they’re classified as a bar," Burroughs said in a telephone interview Monday evening.

DeSantis in mid-May allowed vacation rentals to house guests again, if counties submitted plans that the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation approved.

More than 50 counties have since received the go-ahead for a step the task force recommended be limited to Florida residents, under Phase II. The majority of the counties' approved plans do not restrict vacation rentals to Florida residents.

Under the task force proposal, Phase III would allow local governments to hold in-person meetings while bars, gyms, restaurants and nightclubs would be able to operate at full capacity.

Theme parks could resume normal operations with “limited social distancing protocols” and vulnerable people could “resume public interactions while practicing social distancing.”

Last week, the state gave approval for major theme parks to reopen, with Universal Orlando leading the way on Friday. SeaWorld is expected to reopen on June 11. Disney is set to open the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11 and reopen Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15, according to DisneyParks.com. Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will begin to reopen on June 22.

About the Authors:

Carianne Luter is an Award-Winning Digital Media and Engagement Manager for News4Jax and has worked at Channel 4 since December 2015. She won "Best Social Media Engagement Strategy" during the Local Media Association 2022 Digital Innovation Awards. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a communication degree.

Jim 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.