Florida begins talks about reopening bars, breweries with owners

The state’s top business regulator will start holding talks Friday afternoon about reopening bars amid the coronavirus pandemic, with additional meetings being planned around Hurricane Isaias.

Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears will hold separate private talks in Jacksonville with groups of craft-brewery owners and bar owners, the department announced.

“Arrangements for meetings in Pensacola, Tallahassee, and Tampa-St. Petersburg are currently in coordination,” department spokesman Chris Kingry said in a prepared statement Friday. "Additional meeting locations also are under consideration for next week and may be dependent on the final storm path forecast for Tropical Storm Isaias. Media access will not be available during these meetings.”

The storm was upgraded to a hurricane Friday and threatens to bring rain and winds to South Florida and the state’s East Coast in the coming days.

Beshears issued an order June 26 banning the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption at bars, after non-compliance with coronavirus safety guidelines in the industry was considered too widespread to police.

The order has forced many bars to close their doors, while some have sought licenses to expand food service. Beshears’ order doesn’t affect restaurants that derive less than half of their gross revenue from the sale of alcohol.

Last week, craft brewers warned that the order could cause more than 100 of the approximately 320 breweries in the state to permanently shut their doors.