Bars and restaurants not following COVID-19 guidelines will have licenses suspended, Gov. DeSantis says

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a warning to Florida’s bars and clubs on Tuesday: Follow coronavirus guidelines or risk having your license suspended.

“If people see a pub or restaurant, if they’re operating at 55% – OK, give them a warning. But if you go in and it’s just like, mayhem, like dance party U.S.A. and it’s packed to the rafters, that’s just cut and dry. That’s not just an innocent mistake,” DeSantis said.

The governor said there is “no tolerance” for that type of crowding.

“Just suspend the license and then we’ll move on and then people will, hopefully, get the message that these guidelines are in place for a reason,” he said.

DeSantis said he wants to make sure people are following basic instructions when it comes to wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and keeping hands washed.

The governor’s warning comes one day after a bar near the University of Central Florida had its liquor license suspended. State officials say The Knight’s Pub had 13 employees and at least 28 customers test positive for coronavirus.

Secretary Halsey Beshears of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation said he’s been in touch with several sheriff’s offices throughout the state to continue enforcement. Officers with the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco will be out from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. every night checking bars and restaurants, Beshears said.

“We are going to issue a warning to those who are trying to do the best they can,” he said. “Those that are flagrant, we will be suspending their license. We started this last week and we’re going to continue until we get this right.”

The governor said it’s not worth it for businesses to try and go “totally beyond” the guidelines put in place.

“If you’re not willing to do that, then you’re gonna get a visit here from – I guess (Beshears) will be kinda the grim reaper in terms of business licenses because there’s not going to be any tolerance.,” DeSantis said.

During his news conference in Orlando, the governor said businesses that pack people indoors without social distancing are creating an environment that’s going to lead to more spread of the virus.

“Obviously we want businesses to be able to operate if they can do it in a low-risk environment,” DeSantis said. “The guidelines are in place for a reason. They’re not doing it just to do it,” he said. “The reason they’re doing it is because you want to have environments that are not going to be a huge risk for transmission.

DeSantis noted earlier in the news conference there’s been an escalation in the transmission of the virus over the last seven to 10 days.

“What we’ve seen, particularly over the last week, is a real explosion in new cases among our younger demographics,” he said. “When we started this in March, the median age of people who tested positive was – I think – 65. As the testing ramped up, that went into the 50s. But it was pretty much in the 50s for most of the time and then just recently has really plunged.”

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