DeSantis, state warns restaurants, bars to follow guidelines or lose liquor license

Reporter: Morgan Rynor Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

The governor is telling restaurants and bars to follow the proper guidelines, or be prepared to lose your liquor license. And the governor’s comments have left some local businesses with more questions than answers.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said, if these establishments are packed and people aren’t following social distancing, they will lose out on their ability to serve alcoholic drinks.

DeSantis was joined by Halsey Beshears, the secretary of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations, the state agency that would be in charge of revoking a liquor license.

“You’re gonna get a visit here from, I guess he’ll be kind of the grim reaper of business licenses,” DeSantis said of Beshears and DBPR.

Business owners we spoke to Tuesday say taking away their liquor license would be the end of them.

Russ Bellerose, the owner of Bar 17 in Charlotte County, says their only busy days are Saturdays and Sundays, so he’s done what he can to follow the rules on the days that would typically draw in large crowds.

“I’ve just spread everything out,” Bellerose said.

Bellerose says taking away his liquor license would be a game changer, especially during the tough economic times.

“It basically puts me out of the business,” Bellerose said.

During the conference at Orlando Health, DeSantis shared comments, saying the cost of losing business while following the rules is better than the worse case scenario.

“It might cut down on your overall attendance, but it’s going to keep you open,” DeSantis said.

But Bellerose doesn’t appreciate the threat.

“To threaten us now that we’re finally open, I think whose making those decisions don’t understand the dynamics of small businesses,” Bellerose said.

Sheryl and David Peters own Shorty’s Place. At their business, they have informational signs, spaced seating and a new hand washing station.

They’ve done their part, so their message is to the people, not the business owners.

“I think, if people are afraid to get the virus, they need to stay home,” Sheryl said.

“I believe everybody is going to get it, one way or another,” David said. “So all of this is a bunch of [expletive].”

“I don’t know how they could actually do that, but that would be up to the courts,” David said.

“I don’t know what would happen if they came in and pulled it away,” Bellerose said. “Will they reissue at a later time?”

The doctors sitting next to the governor said a lot of the uptick can be blamed on social gatherings, such as large pool parties, not necessarily the bars and restaurants.

The governor’s message is to businesses that are blatantly ignoring the rules.

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