ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Owners of bars and restaurants listen up.
Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stern warning Tuesday for establishments violating the state's social distancing guidelines, saying if a business is way over capacity they could face one of the state’s harshest penalties.
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The warning came after several pictures and videos surfaced of packed bars and restaurants all over the state.
“If you don’t follow the guidelines and you pack huge numbers of people indoors that are very close, you’re creating an environment that you’re going to see more spread,” said DeSantis said during an appearance in Orlando Tuesday.
He went on to announce the state will start cracking down on bars and restaurants that refuse to follow social distancing rules.
“If you go in and it’s like mayhem and 'Dance Party USA' and it’s packed to the rafters, that’s just cut-and-dry and that’s not just an innocent mistake," DeSantis said. "No tolerance for that, just suspend the license."
It’s a step that could cause lasting impacts on restaurants and bars.
“It will sink you. It will completely put you in the water,” said The Galley St. Pete Tavern co-owner Pete Boland.
Boland knows all about taking a hit to his business. While he says they haven’t had any issues with capacity, they are preparing for a second reopening after shutting down 10 days ago because of Covid cases among their staff.
He said a threat to lose a liquor license is just as detrimental.
“Pinellas County market rate for a liquor license for consumption on premises is $350,000, so that’s the market rate right now,” Boland said. “That’s definitely going to stoke some fear and make people very cautious about this, but it’s going to be very difficult.”
Boland said this now means his staff will have to be extra cautious about following health codes and alcohol regulations, all while wearing masks and serving their guests in an industry that’s all about promoting people being social.
The Governor said they will still give warnings to businesses that are slightly over capacity.