Written by Irven Scott
Ready to head out and have a cocktail or ice cold draft beer with friends in South Florida? You’ve heard the news that Governor DeSantis has put the entire State of Florida in “Phase 3” and bars and restaurants are to open at 100% capacity. But wait… if you live in Broward County, Fort Lauderdale or Wilton Manors, each locality has different rules and “executive orders”. It is a time of confusion and conflicting information. You’re not alone in this confusion when you see posts on Facebook from bars and businesses sharing that they are open and at full capacity until 3am, with no masks required. Others post that they are open at only 50% capacity, with no bar seating, and masks are still required. So what is the real deal?
The confusion arises because each venue is governed by at a minimum four different government agencies. Our Federal guidelines (minimal and almost non-existent thanks to a lack of national leadership), State government from Tallahassee, County government, and last, but certainly not least is municipal/local government. In normal times, navigating those rules and regulations as a business can be trying. Add a pandemic with conflicting orders and it is mass confusion.
Let’s start with the State (we already know the Federal Government has dropped the ball and left us to our own devices). Governor DeSantis moved the State into Phase 3 on Friday, September 25, which allowed all businesses to be open at 100%. There is no statewide mask mandate, restaurants may operate at 100% capacity, no local government can reduce occupancy to below 50%, and finally, the State suspends COVID-19 related individual fines and penalties. You can view the order by clicking here to visit the Florida Government website.
Here is the deal in Broward:
Broward County has two executive orders that are pertinent; EO 20-25 and EO-20-26. Restaurants and bars ARE limited to 50% indoor capacity, 100% outdoor capacity. They must be closed for business between 11pm and 5am and social distancing must be maintained at 6 feet between tables, no bar seating to serve alcoholic beverages and no standing or congregating at the bar. All employees must wear masks at all times and patrons must wear masks when walking to and from tables. The county’s orders can be found on the county website.
And finally, each municipality has their own rules and regulations:
- Fort Lauderdale allows bar seating with 6 feet social distancing, capacity at 50% for bars and 100% for restaurants masks required when not sitting eating or drinking. Closing by Midnight each night. Click here for the information.
- Wilton Manors appears to be following the Broward County EO’s according to the information from the city website.
- Oakland Park is also directing people to the Broward County EO on their website.
Broward County Mayor Dale V.C. Holness said, “With the reopening of all remaining businesses, it is as important as ever to adhere to local Emergency Orders, including wearing facial coverings, practicing social distancing and good personal hygiene (including frequent and thorough handwashing). This is a very important time in the recovery process to understand we must not let down our guard.”
As you can see, it is all very confusing and can be frustrating. Your best option is to check the website or Facebook postings for your venue and follow the basic COVID-19 rules that we have all been continuing to maintain. Keep on social distancing AND wear your mask if you are going anywhere in public. It has been proven that masks can help prevent the spread of the disease and are a needed protection for both you and others.
It’s our job to protect ourselves and more importantly, not to put anyone else at risk, especially those that are more susceptible. And most importantly, KEEP YOURSELF INFORMED. Every one of us has a moral obligation to do our part in containing the spread. Covid-19 can be stopped, but only with dedication, sacrifice, and the ability to respect and listen to the experts.