Three weeks after Florida bars were allowed to emerge from an eleven-week ban on onsite alcohol service, the state has clamped down again.
“Effective immediately, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is suspending on premises consumption of alcohol at bars statewide,” read a Tweet from the department’s Secretary Halsey Beshears that was echoed by the agency’s official Twitter account.
The announcement came minutes after the state reported 8,942 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, far surpassing the previous daily record of 5,508 set on Tuesday.
It also comes just over a week after Governor Ron DeSantis had said he would not roll back Florida’s economic reopening.
“I just really didn’t see that coming,” said Melissa McAvoy, co-owner of Swirlery Wine Bar in Orlando’s SoDo district.
Last week, Swirlery joined a growing number of area bars that voluntarily suspended onsite service amid precipitous jumps in COVID-19 infections.
“It really wasn’t a hard decision,” McAvoy said, “it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Swirlery continued to host outdoor pop-up events, however, with the latest one on Wednesday featuring an outside bar, food truck, and live music. McAvoy regrets those won’t be able to continue in their current form under the new rule, but she says it was probably the right call.
“The numbers are horrific,” she said. “It would be great if our governor didn’t have to stop bars from serving alcohol, but … I guess you can’t always count on bar owners to do the right thing.”
Governor DeSantis plans a press conference this afternoon to address issues surrounding COVID-19.