83ºF

No clear timeline of when bars might reopen in Florida

Bar patron
Bar patron (Pexels)

A spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation said Monday it’s still uncertain when bars and breweries can again serve alcohol for onsite consumption.

DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears has been meeting privately with brewers and bar owners over the past few weeks to discuss concerns about widespread shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Following the recent meetings with representatives of bars and breweries across the state, Secretary Beshears is reviewing feedback and ideas from these business owners and considering options for a sensible plan forward,” DBPR spokeswoman Karen Smith said in an email Monday. “While no timeframe for reopening is certain, Secretary Beshears understands the urgency advocated by business owners in these recent meetings.”

Beshears on June 26 shuttered on-site consumption at bars and breweries because some establishments were violating requirements that had been put in place to try to stem the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. The move essentially closed most bars and nightclubs, though establishments could remain open if they had enough revenue from food sales.

After a meeting in Vero Beach on Friday, TCPalm reported that Beshears said he’s looking to reopen bars and breweries in the next several weeks. Florida Today reported that, after a meeting with Space Coast brewers the same day, Beshears said it could be six months before a reopening, due to anticipated spikes in COVID-19 cases as schools reopen.

Beshears’ goal remains a “safe reopening as swiftly as possible,” Smith said in Monday’s email. When he issued the order in June, Beshears said the shutdown would remain in place until the state’s increase in COVID-19 cases starts to decline. DeSantis initially stopped bars and nightclubs from serving alcohol for on-site consumption as part of an emergency order on March 20 to try to help stop the spread of the virus. The order was lifted on June 5 in all but South Florida, which has been hit hardest by the pandemic.

While bars were allowed to start serving drinks again, the state limited indoor customer occupancy to 50 percent and allowed only table service. But Beshears reimposed the ban on onsite consumption in the June 26 order because non-compliance with the safety guidelines in the bar industry was considered too widespread to enforce.

Numerous bar owners have filed lawsuits against the state over the order.