CLEARWATER, Fla. - Bar owners and employees protested throughout the Tampa Bay area Wednesday, demanding Governor Ron DeSantis allow them to reopen.
“It looks like we are being left out,” said Shannon Evans, a Pinellas County bar owner. “We want the chance to prove that we can also be safe just like other businesses.”
The group #BarsCanOpenSafelyFlorida organized protests in Tampa and in Clearwater. The Clearwater protest in front of the Pinellas County Courthouse drew close to 100 demonstrators who held signs and roused vehicles to honk in support.
“I’ve been out of work for two months and haven’t received any money of any kind,” said Rob Strait, a bartender who works on Treasure Island.
Bars that derive more than 50-percent of their revenue from liquor sales are not permitted to reopen under phase one of the reopening guidance issued by the White House or in the plan outlined by Gov. DeSantis, which is based on the White House plan.
"Bars were not included in the phase one White House guidance," DeSantis noted when asked Friday. "I didn't feel the need to jump on that."
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Hillsborough County officials, and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor support the governor’s decision to keep bars closed.
“I do hope that it is a while for bars to open though because that’s just such a difficult area to manage,” Mayor Castor told FOX 13 Wednesday.
However Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who said Pinellas breweries can open, supports opening bars and pubs as long as they are capped at 50-percent occupancy with social distancing – and no crowded dance floors.
“I don’t have a problem with that. I think enough has opened…and people really are acting responsible,” the sheriff said.
Ultimately, it’s up to Gov DeSantis. He told reporters Wednesday he wants to work with businesses them to get to "yes."