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Attention bars, restaurants: Liquor licenses will be suspended if you flout social distancing

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said businesses that don't follow the COVID-19 guidelines can expect a visit by state regulators.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida bars and restaurants that skirt the state's rules on social distancing could lose their liquor license.

That means the "Grim Reaper of business licenses" could get involved, said Gov. Ron DeSantis, referring to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears.

DeSantis, speaking Tuesday during a news conference about COVID-19 in Orlando, said there will be no tolerance for businesses that do not follow the state's "Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step." plan to reopen the economy.

Currently, Phase Two is in effect statewide with the exception of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which remain in Phase One. The second phase dictates businesses can have indoor seating with appropriate social distancing and not exceed 50 percent of maximum capacity.

"If they're operating at 55 percent, OK, give them a warning, tell 'em, 'Hey, 50,'" DeSantis said. "But if you go in and it's just like, mayhem, like, dance party USA and it's packed to the rafters, that's just cut and dry and that's not just an innocent mistake. 

"And so I told (Beshears), no tolerance for that. Just suspend the license, and then we'll move on and then people, hopefully, will get the message that these guidelines are in a place for a reason."

The Knight's Pub in Orlando appeared not to follow the rules as its alcohol license was suspended Monday after 13 of its workers and 28 customers tested positive for COVID-19. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation said there was an "immediate danger to public health" in prompting the move.

RELATED: Florida reports another 3,289 new coronavirus cases

Credit: Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation
The Knight's Pub alcohol license emergency suspension order, exhibit A

The bar was found in violation on June 5-6 as customers were being served drinks while not being seated for service and not practicing social distancing, the department asserted.

"If you don't follow the guidelines and you pack huge numbers of people indoors that are very close, you're creating an environment that you're going to see more spread," DeSantis said.

The governor again noted the state's median age for COVID-19 infections continues to get younger and younger, with about half of the recent positive tests in the 34 and under age group.

DeSantis said the message remains the same: social distance, exercise good hygiene and when social distancing is not possible, wear a face covering.

RELATED: Is it safe to form a COVID-19 'support bubble' with friends?

RELATED: New cases, hospitalizations, deaths: How Florida is doing in its COVID-19 battle

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