JACKSONVILLE, Fla — After having their doors closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Florida bars will be allowed to open at 50% capacity starting Monday, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, or DBPR.
On Thursday, DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears issued an emergency order to allow all bars and other alcoholic beverage vendors across the state to resume sales of alcoholic beverages on their premises starting Sept. 14, just as long as their operations comply with Phase 2 of reopening.
“In meetings with hundreds of owners of bars and breweries across the state, I’ve heard their stories of struggle, and I’ve observed their serious commitment to making health and safety a continuing priority in their businesses,” Beshears said.
This comes two months after DBPR originally issued an order for an immediate suspension of drinking alcohol at bars following spikes in positive COVID-19 cases. The initial order, however, still allowed bars to sell alcohol in sealed to-go containers for consumption off the premises.
"It’s time that we take this step, and it’s vital that we start moving forward with this sector of our hospitality industry who have endured one of the toughest paths for sustaining a business during this pandemic," Beshears said.
However, restaurants weren't impacted by that order. They were allowed to continue selling food and drinks, just as long as they were operating at 50% capacity.
As a result, some First Coast bars and breweries got creative.
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Alewife Bottleshop and Tasting Room in Five Points teamed up with The Bread & Board and started selling artisan bread and meats with their drinking menu.
“We made the investment to create a space that operates as a food prep area to get the license and work with The Bread & Board to actually create a menu that was more specific to our bar,” owner Kelly Pickard said last month.
Southern Swells Brewing Co. also obtained a food license and started selling Hot Pockets and Doritos with their alcoholic beverages.
“Adding food -- I don't think that's going to do anything to make it safer, but this is a viable longer-term solution on staying open," co-owner Corey Adams told First Coast News last month. "'I'm happy to spend $1,000 on a license and equipment to get reopened."
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association's northeast chapter is giving away masks to hospitality employees this week. According to the chapter director this is in response to bars reopening. See when and where you can pick up a mask Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday in the tweet below.