NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – Florida bars, bowling alleys and theme parks will be part of the next phase of reopening the state in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday.
Friday is also the day where Phase 2 of the reopening will begin, with bars allowed to open at 50% capacity with social distancing and sanitation.
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, and he hopes to reopen Friday.
“We’re certainly excited about it," Whittingslow said. "My phone has been ringing off the hook all afternoon.”
Whittingslow said the past few months have been difficult, and that its been a financial strain on employees. He said he’s grateful his employees can get back to work and that he’s looking forward to seeing his customers again.
“We’re very excited and I know our customers are very excited about being able to come in," Whittingslow said. “I’m sure it will be really gratifying. It will probably be like going to the first football game after it opens up."
Phase 2 applies to 64 of Florida’s 67 counties. The hardest hit — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — will have to submit plans for the next step in their reopening.
Florida allowed restaurants and retail shops to open at 25% capacity on May 4 and expanded that later in the month.
Movie theaters, bowling alleys and pari-mutuel betting facilities also have a path to reopen if they submit a plan for social distancing and sanitizing, DeSantis said.
In Orlando, crosstown rival, SeaWorld Orlando, plans to open its parks next week, and Walt Disney World will start a phased reopening of its parks next month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report