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DBPR promising stricter enforcement for bars

Happy hour has taken on a whole new meaning for Florida Bar and brewery owners.
Happy hour has taken on a whole new meaning for Florida Bar and brewery owners.(AP)
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 11:17 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Happy hour has taken on a whole new meaning for Florida Bar and brewery owners.

Tuesday was the second day they have been allowed to reopen, and in an exclusive interview, the state’s top regulator promised a different approach to enforcement this time around.

During the three weeks bars were allowed open in June, the state relied on complaints it received, then sent agents to investigate for violations.

But Halsey Beshears, Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation told us this time, things will be different.

“So we are going to police this thing very hard, differently this time, up front,” said Beshears.

Agents will be on the streets nightly, proactively looking for violations.

“We’ve moved to a four to 12 pm shift. We’re going to be out policing being active on that,” said Beshears.

Those who ignore the 50 percent inside occupancy rule could quickly be out of business.

“You know, some bar owners are gonna open up regardless. They think they’re gonna pack it in. And we’re gonna continue to police those who do not want to operate within the emergency order, and we’re going to take their license,” said Beshears.

Brewer Byron Burroughs likes the new approach.

“Because, invariably, you’re going to have bad operators out there that aren’t following the rules, and that’s bad for everybody that has been and is following the rules,” said Burroughs, who owns Proof Brewery in the state’s capital city.

To help limit contact, customers at Burrough’s bar will scan a code attached to every table.

That will get them a menu and help them avoid touching something that someone else may have handled.

The windows of Proof Brewery are also filled with health information, a warning about social distancing, and a waiver telling customers, by entering they assume the risk of getting the virus.

“It’s basically saying, yes, ‚we’re going to do everything we can do to protect you, but there is still an element of risk,” said Burroughs.

A total of nine licenses were suspended during the three weeks bars were open in June.

The top regulator wouldn’t speculate if stronger enforcement this time will result in more suspensions.

Beshears also noted that the big test will be how well bars and brewery’s handle any crowds this weekend, which will be the first weekend bars will have been open in almost three months.

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