In reaction to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, the State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued Emergency Order 2020-09, effective June 26, 2020. The order stops bars from serving alcohol on the premises. This is just three weeks after bars got the green light to serve customers within their walls.
Bars statewide can either close down completely, or decide to ring up some sales by selling alcohol “to go” in sealed containers to be consumed off the premises (liquor by the bottle and/or mixed drinks.)
COVID-19 Cases In Younger Cohort
During June, there have been spiking numbers of new COVID-19 cases in young adults (compared to earlier months of the pandemic). The state is linking this rise in younger people to the bar scene (that had reopened in Florida June 5, 2020), and erosion of social distancing.
Record Numbers Of New COVID-19 Positive Cases
Florida’s Governor made the difficult decision to close bars in an attempt to hammer down coronavirus cases. (But the Governor has attributed some of the rise in positive cases in Florida to increased testing in the state.) Florida’s COVID-19 “new cases of residents” was another one-day record on June 26, 2020 at 9,636. (According to the Florida Dept. of Health’s COVID-19 Data & Surveillance Dashboard).
Serving Alcohol At Restaurants
Businesses with a food license can still serve alcohol, as long as alcohol doesn’t make up more than 50% of sales.
Phase 2 “Step-By-Step” Recovery Plan
Starting June 26, 2020, the Governor directed the DBPR to enforce restrictions in the previous Executive Order 20-139 (that had gone into effect June 5, 2020), under Florida’s Phase 2 of the “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step” recovery plan. Order 20-139 had allowed bars to begin serving customers again, on site, after Florida bars had been closed for about two and a half months (since March 17, 2020). When allowing bars to reopen, there were 50% inside capacity limits and serving only “seated” customers, with distancing tables six feet apart (and bar counter seating).
Shutting down the bar business, again, is solemn news for the summer season, after an awful springtime for this business sector. The burden falls on all shoulders, whether or not a bar had been complying with capacity limits and social distancing guidelines.
The DBPR’s Executive Order No. 2020-09, effective June 26, 2020, describes rising COVID-19 cases and enforcement issues as follows:
…”WHEREAS, during the month of June 2020, the number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 increased significantly in the State of Florida, especially among younger individuals, and some of these cases involving younger individuals are suspected to have originated from visits to bars, pubs, or nightclubs who have disregarded the restrictions set forth in Phase 2 of the Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery; and WHEREAS, noncompliance by bars and other vendors licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises is suspected throughout the State to such a degree as to make individualized enforcement efforts impractical and insufficient at this time…”See complete 3-page DBPR Emergency Executive Order 2020-09
Nassau’s Three One-Day Record Cases This Week
Three times the past week here in Nassau County, new COVID-19 cases surpassed previous one-day records. Thirteen new cases were reported June 27, 2020. This broke the daily record set the day before on June 26, 2020 (eleven cases). That was one more case than the previous one-day record of ten cases in Nassau County, reported on June 20, 2020 (see related article).
Some Restaurants Close Temporarily
Several Amelia Island restaurants announced closing down this past week for deep cleaning and testing all employees (after learning an employee had tested positive for COVID-19). To err on the side of caution, as a preemptive measure, some other local restaurants then decided to also close temporarily for deep cleaning and/or testing employees. These Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach restaurants have been making their announcements about closing on their Facebook pages. Look on social media to follow updates posted by restaurants.
Nassau County Encourages Masks In Public
With both state and local COVID-19 cases on the rise, Nassau County, FL issued a news release June 25, 2020, stating:
“Due to the recent increases to COVID-19 cases, Nassau County is strongly encouraging use of masks in public places. Effective Friday, June 26, 2020, we are requesting that ALL businesses implement measures to protect the health and safety of the public. This includes use of masks by both employees and patrons, ensuring social distancing of customers, and maintaining an occupancy of 50% or less.”
Nassau County To Inspect Businesses
According to Nassau County, from June 26 to July 1st:
“Nassau County Code Enforcement will begin visiting businesses to see if these recommendations are being followed. Should it be determined that businesses are not voluntarily implementing these measures, the County will consider issuing an Executive Order making these safety measures mandatory and subjecting business owners to a citation. The Chamber of Commerce and Nassau County Emergency Management are working on a system to distribute masks to businesses needing assistance in supplying them to employees and patrons. Additional information on this will follow.”
For daily updates on Florida COVID-19 cases statewide (searchable by county and zip code), visit the Florida COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.