Alcohol consumption suspended at Florida bars due to ‘widespread non-compliance’ amid coronavirus spike

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Alcohol consumption has been suspended at all bars throughout the State of Florida as coronavirus cases continue to increase.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued an emergency order on Friday suspending the sale of alcohol for on-premise consumption at bars, or businesses that “derive more than 50 percent of gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages.”

Those businesses are allowed to continue selling alcohol in sealed containers to be consumed off-premises.

The suspension, initially announced via Twitter, went into effect immediately.

In a Thursday afternoon news conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the order was put in place due to “widespread non-compliance.”

“When people follow the guidelines, we’ve not had any problems. We’ve not had any issues. The reason why DBPR took it is you didn’t have people following it, there was widespread non-compliance and that led to issues,” DeSantis said. “If folks just follow the guidelines, we’re going to be in good shape. When you depart from that, it becomes problematic.”

DeSantis pointed out he thinks the problem is less with the businesses and more with social interactions.

“Based on recent increases in COVID-19 cases and non-compliance with previous orders, DBPR has taken action to suspend on-premises alcohol sales at bars,” DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears said in a statement. “DBPR believes this is a necessary step to take to protect public health as we continue working in partnership with industry and health officials to combat COVID-19.”

A tweet from Secretary Beshears says taprooms and breweries are included in the emergency order.

According to the emergency order, restaurants are not impacted. They will still be allowed to sell food and drinks to be consumed on-premises.

Current guidelines from the state only allow restaurants to operate at 50% capacity indoors.

Earlier this week, Gov. DeSantis threatened to suspend licenses of any bar or restaurant not following coronavirus guidelines. Secretary Beshears said during that news conference that officers with the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco would be out from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. every night checking bars and restaurants.

Beshears had also issued a reminder on Twitter Thursday that restaurants and bars were only allowed to operate at 50% capacity indoors.

Friday’s announcement came shortly after the Department of Health reported a record 8,942 new coronavirus cases. The total number of cases Florida has reported since the beginning of the pandemic is now 122,960.

The governor has noted this week that cases are increasing in younger age groups.

“What we’ve seen, particularly over the last week, is a real explosion in new cases among our younger demographics,” he said. “When we started this in March, the median age of people who tested positive was – I think – 65. As the testing ramped up, that went into the 50s. But it was pretty much in the 50s for most of the time and then just recently has really plunged.”

As of Friday morning, Florida residents in the 25 to 34 age group account for the highest percentage of the state’s coronavirus cases. A total of 23,495 Floridians in that age group have tested positive, which is 19% of the total.

Full Emergency Order from Florida’s DBPR:

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