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Florida Governor Lifts All Restrictions on State Restaurants and Bars, But Miami Imposes Its Own Set of Rules

Bars and nightclubs can now be open statewide

Las Vegas Reopens Bars For Second Time After COVID-19 Closures Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In a surprise announcement Friday afternoon, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis released a new executive order saying that the state will be immediately moving into Phase Three of its reopening plans, which allows restaurants and bars to operate at full capacity, along with virtually every other business. But Miami-Dade County, the hardest-hit county in the state for COVID-19 infections, is still enforcing its own set of protocols.

Nightclubs and bars can reopen in Miami-Dade County, but there will be limits. The “50 percent capacity limits for restaurants will remain in place as a minimum, with the expansion of more than 50 percent capacity allowed for restaurants and other venues that can accommodate more tables while also keeping a 6-foot separation between tables,” according to an announcement from Mayor Carlos Gimenez that was approved by the governor. Restaurants can reach 100 percent capacity by offering socially distant seating outdoors, but no more than 6 people can be seated per table or up to ten per household.

If the restaurant doesn’t have enough space to allow for 50 percent capacity while being socially distant and keeping tables 6-feet apart, they are now allowed to set tables closer together to reach 50 percent threshold and don’t have to abide by the 6-foot rule.

As for bars and nightclubs, bars that only have counter service will be allowed to reach 50 percent capacity with seating that is separated at the bar as “far as possible” while allowing for a minimum of 50 percent capacity. And nightclubs that offer dancing must require that masks be worn on the dance floor, and all food and beverage consumption may only be allowed at tables.

With the state in Phase Three reopening, virtually everything can operate at full capacity including parks, gyms. movie theaters, strip clubs, shops, short-term vacation rentals, concert halls, casinos, bowling alleys, arcades, playhouses, and auditoriums, all with “limited social distancing procedures.” And unlike the past, where counties could make their own rules regarding what was open or not, in DeSantis’ new order all businesses “must be allowed to operate at least at 50 percent capacity, regardless of local rule.” DeSantis also suspended any fines and fees related to social distancing and mask wearing enforcement.

And while bars and nightclubs might be open up for the first time since March, the party stops at 11 p.m., as Miami-Dade County’s nightly curfew is still in place “in an effort to curtail late-night activities that facilitate the spread of the virus.” Those who violate the curfew will be charged with a second-degree criminal misdemeanor that can come with a $500 fine and up to 180-days in jail.

The sudden announcement, which seemingly caught most officials off-guard, left local leaders scrambling over the weekend to define the vague language in DeSantis’ executive order. Meanwhile, videos of restaurants and bars filled to the brim with guests flooded social media, raising concern from top health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Florida has been a hotspot for the coronavirus, with more than 700,000 positive cases and more than 14,000 deaths statewide since the virus began. Yesterday the state reported an additional 1,871 cases, with 280 in Miami-Dade.