ORLANDO, Fla. — Allowing bars to reopen at 50 percent capacity is a good first step by state regulators, but it’s a small one, the owner of two bars in downtown Orlando said Thursday night.

What You Need To Know

  • Executive order allows bar servce to seated patrons indoors

  • Outdoor seating with 6-foot social distancing also is permiitted

  • Bars have been shut down twice because of COVID pandemic

  • State regulator said the businesses need to be able to move forward 

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) announced Thursday evening that bars will be allowed to open for alcohol sales on Monday, September 14 at 50 percent capacity. An executive order announced Thursday evening allows bar service to seated patrons and permits outdoor seating and service with appropriate social distancing. 

Bars were shut down along with most other businesses when the COVID-19 pandemic began to ramp up in Florida in March. They reopened in limited capacity in early June but then were banned from selling alcohol for consumption at their establishments on June 26 when COVID positivity rates spiked and many bars were not following safety protocols.

“It’s gonna be nice,” Aaron Dudek, who owns The Lodge and The Woods, said. “There will be more foot traffic downtown. Downtown has been a ghost town. And [I’m] excited to see people coming back. Parking lots will fill up. There will be some money flowing around town again, and I imagine everyone will be happy.”

After months of being shut down, though, Dudek said it will take a while to dig out of a financial hole from having to pay rent and other expenses without any income.

Only being able to open at 50 percent capacity means it’s going to take a long time before he and others can start to make profits, according to Dudek, who recently obtained a kitchen license so his bars could start selling food.

It’s also important bar management and customers alike continue to follow the rules so they don’t put thousands of other business owners throughout the state at risk, Dudek added. Those rules, defined by county and state leaders, are as follows:

  • Employees and customers must practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart. 
  • Employees and patrons of businesses that require employees and patrons to be within 6 feet must wear a face mask or covering. 
  • Checkout points and staging areas, including storefronts, mark floors or similar actions to maintain a 6-foot distance between patrons and employees. 
  • Posting signage throughout each physical location reminding patrons and employees to observe the social distancing requirements. 


DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears said the move is designed to help ease the concerns of bar owners about their sustainability. 

“In meetings with hundreds of owners of bars and breweries across the state, I’ve heard their stories of struggle, and I’ve observed their serious commitment to making health and safety a continuing priority in their businesses,” Beshears said in a statement.

“It’s time that we take this step, and it’s vital that we start moving forward with this sector of our hospitality industry, who have endured one of the toughest paths for sustaining a business during this pandemic.”