TAMPA, Fla. - The state of Florida is taking another big step in its reopening process -- again. On Monday, bars and breweries can start pouring drinks again on-site, but it won't be business as usual due to the pandemic.
Bars and breweries had been closed since the end of June, when the state forces businesses that don't serve food to stop serving alcohol for consumption on its property. However, last week, Governor Ron DeSantis rescinded that order.
Starting Monday, bars and other alcoholic beverage vendors can reopen as long as they comply with the parameters of phase two. Indoor capacity must be capped at 50%, everyone must be seated at tables, and the same physical-distancing rules for restaurants applies to bars and breweries.
“Now people can go back and forth from each bar, wearing their mask and washing their hands, it’s going to bring a lot of life back into Ybor again,” said Mo Pickering, general manager of White Lie, a bar and restaurant on 7th Avenue.
"We're ecstatic to get open," agreed LJ Govoni, president of Big Storm Brewing Co. "I know the bars we serve are ecstatic to get open. I'm ecstatic to go back to the bars we serve beer to that couldn't buy beer from us."
Govoni who is one of the co-owners and the president of Big Storm Brewing Co. has 3 breweries across the state. The two in the Bay Area serve food and have been able to stay open, but his third location in Cape Coral will re-open Monday.
"The seven employees we have down here, it's not a big facility but those seven employees are excited to get back to work to earn their paycheck," Govoni said.
The decision to reopen bars and breweries comes after the number of coronavirus cases started trending lower each week, since peaking at 79,000 cases several weeks ago.
Two months ago, bars and breweries were forced to shutter their doors for a second time during the pandemic.
The first closure occurred on St. Patrick's Day. Florida shut down all bars, but to-go cocktails were allowed. Eventually, some breweries eventually reopened, specifically the ones that serve food or have a food truck on property.
On June 3, DeSantis announced phase two of reopening the state could begin, and bars were allowed to reopen -- but it was shortlived.
When coronavirus cases began surging in Florida, mainly among young adults, a short tweet from Halsey Beshears, secretary of the state's Department of Business & Professional Regulation, read that on-site consumption of alcohol must be suspended. At that point, bars had only reopened for a couple of weeks.
Since then, bars and breweries had to find ways to survive. Many had to seek food-service licenses in order to operate as a restaurant and reopen their doors at 50% capacity, but the decision to reopen, again, is a move that's sure to pour some life back into Florida's struggling bar industry.
“It feels like going home, feels like we're back in business,” said Jeremy Davis as he sipped a beer Monday.
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Govoni is hopeful bars can remain open and won't have to close for a third time.
"If the governor were to rescind and were to back track," he said, "the disappointment would not begin to describe my feelings."
“We need everyone to take on this personal responsibility of staying safe,” added Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.
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