Florida Suspends Alcohol Consumption At Bars Amid Coronavirus Spike - WUSF Public Media | Tampa NPR, Local News Coverage

Florida Suspends Alcohol Consumption At Bars Amid Coronavirus Spike

DAYLINA MILLER/WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

The consumption of alcohol at Florida bars was suspended Friday as Florida reported nearly 9,000 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period.

The announcement was made Friday in a tweet by Halsey Bashears, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

“Effective immediately, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is suspending on premises consumption of alcohol at bars statewide,” the tweet read.

It was unclear how long the suspension, which impacts bars with more than 50 percent of sales from alcohol, would last.

It comes after the Florida Department of Health reported 8,942 new confirmed cases on Friday, topping the previous record of 5,500 set Wednesday.

During a news conference Friday in Fort Myers, Gov. Ron DeSantis again attributed the spike in positive coronavirus cases across the state to the increased spread among the younger population. He also maintained his stance that the state would not back down on its efforts to reopen the state, and urged residents to follow the guidelines that are in place.

“When people followed Phase 1 and people followed the guidelines, we’ve not had any problems,” DeSantis said. “The reason why DBPR took action is because you had people who weren’t following it. There was widespread non-compliance and that led to issues.

“If folks just follow the guidelines, we’ll going to be in good shape.  When you depart from that, it’s going to be problematic. That’s been clear from the beginning.”

More than 24,000 cases have been reported since Saturday, more than a fifth of the 111,724 cases confirmed since March 1. The department had not updated its death total, which still stood at 3,327.

The seven-day average for positive tests dropped slightly to 13.4%, down 1 percentage point from Thursday but still triple the rate of 3.8% of June 1. State officials have attributed much of the new outbreak to young adults flocking to bars after they reopened about a month ago.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, says the bars should have never reopened in the first place.

“People go to bars to be social” Fried said. “So, certainly this move today is definitely in the right direction, but I’m just concerned that it’s a little too late.

“My heart goes out to so many of our small businesses that had to reopen and now potentially reclose again. They are struggling, and that’s why we need to get this under control as fast as possible.”

Bars in most of Florida, along with movie theaters, tattoo shops and major theme parks, were allowed to start reopening with limited occupancy on June 5.

But with coronavirus cases surging, Beshears this week tried to send a message about bars exceeding the occupancy limit when he suspended the alcoholic-beverage license of a bar near the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Information from the Associated Press and News Service of Florida was used in this report.

This is a developing story. Stay with WUSF for updates.

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