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Governor Shuts Down Bars and Enacts New Restrictions of Restaurants

March 17th, 2020 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida has its first nursing home death tied to the Coronavirus and Governor Ron DeSantis has used his emergency powers to close bars as of 5pm Tuesday and limit restaurants to 50 percent capacity.

Restaurants feared it could have been much more severe.

It was a sweeping use of executive power in a state that depends on tourism eating out and nightlife.

“We are going to encourage people, consistent with the President’s guidance, to utilize takeout and delivery services. We’re also going to be requiring that the restaurants screen all employees,” said DeSantis.

But the Governor has left the door open for local officials to take even stronger measures.

“This is the floor for Florida for the foreseeable future,” said DeSantis.

Some have already ordered restaurants to carry out only.

“For god sakes, please continue to patronize our restaurants. Use the take out measure, curbside, and use the apps,” said Carol Dover with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

And bars did not fare as well as restaurants.

“Bars and nightclubs, effective at 5 pm today, they’re going to be suspended for 30 days,” said DeSantis.

Enforcing the bar closings will likely be left to local officials, although the Department of Business and Profession Regulation could sanction any that stay open, including revoking their license.

The ban does not apply to restaurants who are licensed to serve alcohol incidental to their food service.

At an eatery in the shadow of the Capitol booths were empty and an outside seating area virtually deserted.

“Not a lot of people walking on the sidewalk. We’ve had a couple people walk in and ask questions, so what we’re serving. We normally have a buffet which we shut down,” said Paul Roth, co-owner of the restaurant.

Because food service profit margins are so low, it’s virtually guaranteed that some restaurants won’t live to see the crisis end.

The Governor has activated a small business loan program.

It will provide small businesses with up to $50,000 interest free for a year.

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