TAMPA (WFLA) – One year ago on St. Patrick’s Day, the celebration was cut short when Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered a 30-day shutdown of bars and nightclubs in Florida to slow the spread of coronavirus.
When he made that announcement, the Florida Department of Health was reporting close to 200 cases of the virus and only six COVID-19 deaths.
Since then, the state has reported nearly 2 million coronavirus cases with over 32,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
“Bars and nightclubs effective 5pm today they’re gonna be suspended for 30 days in state of Florida,” the governor said on March 17, 2020. “We’ve seen a lot of things about people congregating at these things we view that as something that could be problematic.”
A year later, other than local mask rules in some places, Florida bars can welcome patrons on St. Patrick’s Day 2021 with no restrictions.
“Feels like a wonderful normal march especially when it’s 85 degrees out,” said Jim Davis, who is visiting Tampa with his wife from Louisville, Kentucky.
The Davis couple said they are enjoying more than the warm weather.
“It’s an amazing atmosphere, it was completely packed. We were lucky to get a table,” Diane Davis said of an Irish pub in Ybor City.
Back home, she said there are stricter COVID-19 rules and capacity limits.
“Sixty percent right now,” she said, “but you can’t actually sit at a bar. You have to sit at a side table facing away from the bar.”
Gov. DeSantis again shut down bars during the summer surge, but by the end of September, he lifted all statewide coronavirus restrictions on businesses.
“Where we are from our governor, he shut us down and still has his thumb on everyone’s necks,” Jim Davis said. “So we’re thrilled to be in a place where we can actually get out and enjoy ourselves.”
“We’re actually ready to move here,” his wife added.