Rule change means some bars can reopen sooner than expected

Friday nights aren't what they used to, but there are signs the weekends are becoming livelier. More bars in Florida are starting to re-open but to do so, they must have a restaurant license.

At the end of June, the state ordered bars to stop selling alcohol. The only exception was for establishments that make more than half of their money from selling food. 

Of course, that forced most bars to close. However, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation quietly changed the rule in July.

DBPR officials told FOX 13, if a bar is licensed to sell food, it can operate as a restaurant at half of its normal capacity.

Customers must be seated at tables or at the bar with appropriate social distancing.

The key is having a restaurant license. The owner of The Press Box on Dale Mabry Highway said his bar has always had a restaurant license, therefore he's been able to be open with 50% capacity indoors.

The bar owner says he's taken a lot of other measures to keep his staff and guests safe, like putting partitions between the booths.

"We even hired security at nighttime to help us out, which I have never had before in my 34 years here, just to make sure customers are wearing their mask and to relieve my manager of that responsibility," the owner explained.

He says half of the tables and chairs in the dining room were taken out and put in storage to help limit capacity and keep guests properly social distanced.

Secretary Halsey Beshears with DBPR says he's working on options for businesses that don’t have a restaurant license, but the department has not given a timeframe for when all bars will be allowed to re-open.

The secretary says he has been meeting with businesses across the state to develop a plan.