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DeSantis: Liquor licenses at risk for bars and restaurants in violation of state guidelines

Jaymi Butler

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Ron DeSantis
Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference in Orlando Tuesday.

Governor Ron DeSantis reiterated the need for Floridians to practice good hygiene, maintain physical distance and wear masks. Bars and restaurants that don’t heed the message could face losing their liquor licenses.

“If people see a pub or restaurant and it’s just mayhem, Dance Party USA and packed to the rafters, that’s just cut and dry,” said DeSantis during a Tuesday press conference in Orlando. “There will be no tolerance. We suspend the license and we move on.”

Halsey Beshears, Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said that there have been 106 complaints statewide about bars and restaurants violating state guidelines. One bar in Orlando that is tied to 41 cases of COVID-19 had its liquor license suspended Monday night.

Beshears said that officers from the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco will be out nightly from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. to check on any establishments that have been reported to be in violation. Officers have been instructed to issue warnings to businesses that are doing the best they can to control capacity. Restaurants and bars are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity indoors.

“We’re going to continue to do this until we get this right,” Beshears said.

Bars and restaurants that aren’t willing to follow the rules will be getting a visit from Beshears, who DeSantis dubbed “the grim reaper in terms of business licenses.” 

DeSantis said that while there is still room for improvement, most bars and restaurants are doing a good job following the rules. 

Regarding the numbers, nearly 1.7 million tests have been performed statewide since the pandemic began, with more than 103,000 positive cases. Last week’s median age was 35, according to DeSantis.

“The good thing about that is if you look at any data set, the folks in that age group, unless they have some kind of underlying health condition, do not suffer the same types of clinical consequences that people in the older group would have,” DeSantis said.

He noted that most cases among the 20-30 age bracket are due to community transmission.

“It’s just natural, you want to be more out and about,” he said of those in the 20-30 age bracket. “The folks that are more vulnerable are staying in.”

At the state’s more than 4,000 long-term care facilities, DeSantis said testing has been performed or at least offered to all residents and staff members. A new testing program will be launched Friday, testing all staff members every two weeks to help identify asymptomatic spread. 

Although cities across the state, including Tampa and St. Petersburg, have issued mask requirements for patrons and employees, DeSantis said he has no plans for a statewide mandate, preferring to allow cities and counties to fashion rules that fit their communities. 

“We have a big diverse state,” he said. “The outbreak is not uniform.”

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