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miami-restaurant-Orlando-bars-sue-gov-ron-desantis-over-coronavirus-closures.gif Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images Plus
The Florida order barred on-premises consumption of alcohol at establishments that derived more than 50% of gross revenue from alcohol. Restaurants, such as this one in Miami, could continue outdoor service with restrictions.

Florida bar owners sue Gov. Ron DeSantis over coronavirus shutdown

Plaintiffs follow Texas operators in contesting state restrictions

Florida bar owners have followed those in Texas in suing their governor over restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus.

A group of bar owners has sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the others, seeking to overturn the state’s order shutting down bars while keeping restaurant bars open.

On June 26, Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, issued Emergency Order 2020-09, which cited the increase in COVID-19 cases in Florida and attributed the spike to young people who may have patronized bars.

The Florida order prohibited establishments that received more than 50% of their gross revenue from the sale of alcohol from serving on premises.

A representative of the Florida bar owners said the order did not address restaurants containing bars from ceasing to serve alcohol to patrons.

"My clients have complied with all safety mandates and have exceeded the guidelines set forth by the government and CDC,” said plaintiff attorney John Dill of Winter Park, Fla., in a statement.

“Instead of penalizing violators of the guidelines, Gov. DeSantis has thrown the baby out with the bathwater and prevented law abiding citizens from making a living,” Dill said. “My clients are in favor of reducing the spread of COVID-19 but can't understand why serving a certain amount of food is the deciding factor on who can stay open and who cannot.”

Dill said the complaint seeks a temporary injunction against Florida’s government from enforcing the order and a declaratory judgment that the order is unconstitutional.  A hearing is expected this week.

During the weekend, DeSantis said buying alcohol will remain a to-go-only option at Florida bars for the foreseeable future as coronavirus cases continue to spike. The state reported a record of more than 15,000 cases during the weekend, and more than 12,000 on Monday.

“Right now, we’re not making any changes, status quo,” DeSantis said during an appearance in Bradenton, Fla. “We want to get this positivity rate down. We want to continue to, you know, hopefully see declining COVID-like illness visits at the (emergency departments). And then as we get in a more stable situation, then we’ll take a look at it.”

Miami-Dade County issued an amendment to its emergency order, effective Thursday, that closed indoor dining in restaurants, though outdoor dining was allowed. After 10 p.m., restaurant can only provide takeout and delivery service.

Before the July Fourth holiday, bar owners in Texas sued Gov. Greg Abbott, accusing the Texas leader of violating the state’s constitution by ordering the reclosing of bars.

Texas bars had reopened with limited capacity on May 22, and Florida bars had reopened June 5 with 50% capacity in Phase 2 of that state’s COVID-19 strategy.

Other jurisdictions have pulled back on bar and restaurant reopenings.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the reclosure of bars in seven counties due to the rising number of cases in those jurisdictions including Los Angeles County.

Areas of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania had also suspended reopening capacity rules.

For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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