TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In an executive order released Friday afternoon, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered that all restaurants and food establishments in Florida to suspend on-premises food and alcohol consumption, effective immediately. Their kitchens can remain open for delivery and take-out services.
This supersedes DeSantis order earlier this week limited businesses open to the be limited to 50% of legal capacity. On Tuesday, DeSantis also ordered all bars and nightclubs to closed.
The new order also lifts a ban on delivery or take-out sales of alcohol for food establishments, as long as the buyer has identification of legal age. The order will be in effect as long as the state of emergency for coronavirus is in effect.
Carol Dover, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, issued a statement that said DeSantis is taking “swift action out of precaution for the safety of Florida residents and visitors.”
“Allowing restaurants to stay open for delivery and take-out, while also lifting the ban for alcohol delivery, is critical to supporting Florida’s dining establishments and their employees,” Dover said. “We applaud Governor DeSantis for allowing Florida’s hospitality industry to continue to meet the needs of communities across Florida during this difficult time.”
Barrique Kitchen and Wine Bar in Avondale won’t remain open during the executive order.
“It’s left us no real choice other than to close the doors and try to wait out the situation,” said Richard Rapp, the restaurant’s owner. “It’s very important that you support the local businesses because it’s a tough time for us.”
Rapp says to-go service isn’t a viable option for his business based on the items on the restaurant’s menu.
It was a tough afternoon for Jacob Lendzion who had to tell a portion of his employees they’re without a job for the time being.
He's been the manager of The Brick in Avondale for five months.
“I’ve just been trying to get a hold of our staff it’s tough right now but they are faithful and everyone’s trying to stay upbeat right now," Lendzion said.
He said the restaurant is keeping on only staff that will help oversee its to-go service.
The new executive order also orders all gyms and fitness centers to close, although many of those have voluntarily closed.
DeSantis’ order directs the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to enforce the limitations. It also asks vendors to make and keep records of all events canceled in response to COVID-19 in order to make a claim for a small business loan.
“I am committed to supporting retailers, restaurants and their employees as they pursue creative business practices that ensure safely serv(ing) customers during this temporary period of social distancing," DeSantis wrote in his order.
Tribe closes casinos
The Seminoles’ six casinos generate billions annually and employ 14,000 people. As a sovereign tribal nation, the Seminoles did not have to heed the governor’s orders, but the tribe said in a statement it no longer felt operating the casinos was safe.
At the tribe’s Hard Rock Casino near Fort Lauderdale on Friday afternoon, vacationers, diehard gamblers and bored locals enjoyed the last few hours of play but the noisy clangs from the machines were muted. Nearly half the machines were disabled to force players, some wearing gloves, to use machines at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
Victor and Alyssia Fletcher sat at the Hard Rock playing the “Betti the Yetti” slot machine after 90 minutes of black jack. They had driven from Norfolk, Virginia, to celebrate their first anniversary in Miami only to be greeted by closed doors everywhere.
“The bars are closed. We can’t go to the clubs and do any partying,” said Victor Fletcher, a 28-year-old chef. Even the aquarium closed, so they had come to the casino. Now it too was closing.
“We’re trying to make the best of it,” he said.
The state, which has no income tax, receives a large portion of its revenue from sales, hotel and other taxes paid not just by residents, but by the approximately 120 million people who visit Florida annually, drawn by its theme parks, cruises and beaches. That number that will surely plummet this year because of the closures. The Legislature just passed a $92 billion budget Thursday.