Florida bars must wait longer to reopen

Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 11:16 PM CDT
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This weekend was once eyed by the state as a potential date for bars to at least partially reopen, but that decision remains on hold.

Harry’s Bar in Carrabelle Florida, population twenty eight hundred, opened in 1942, as hundreds of thousands of GI’s trained on the nearby Gulf beach for the Pacific invasion.

It is one of a handful of bars who have filed suit to overturn the state's order closing them.

“Essentially, we all arguing the same thing. That’s it’s unfair to single out bars and shut them down, when for example, you can go and buy a drink at Applebees, Chili’s, or another chain restaurant,” said Ethan Way, the attorney representing the bars.

Harry’s has continued paying people, but has started a GoFundMe page to make up for people’s lost tips.

“We have single mothers that are so…it’s been difficult,” said manager Kimberly Wallace.

In an exclusive interview almost two weeks ago, the man in charge of regulating bars told us July 16th was a potential date to decide whether to reopen bars.

The answer is not now.

“It’s like the virus, as it’s spread, it’s gone like wildfire. We can’t open the bars and breweries right now, that’d be like pouring gasoline on the fire to make it hotter to burn out faster. We have to maintain what we are doing right now,” said DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears.

In the last three weeks, ABT agents have made more than 8,400 visits.

Just five licenses have been suspended.

“The restaurants that are out there that they say are crowded, we go in. We inspect. We look at the occupancy number, and they are in compliance,” said Beshears.

And the state is considering new options for bars.

They include moving all service outdoors and an early curfew.

The state did not give us a timetable for easing bar restrictions, but it is clear the virus infection rate has to be heading in the right direction first.

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