Bars still can’t serve alcohol for on site consumption under first phase of Florida reopening

Orlando police officers educate local bar management after some confusion over rules under reopening

ORLANDO, Fla. – Confused about the rules under Florida’s reopening phase one, some Orlando bars were serving alcohol to customers for drinking on site Monday and had to be asked to stop, according to the Orlando Police Department.

Four Orlando establishments were serving alcohol and food to customers at the bar and once informed by OPD officers that it was not yet OK under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ current executive order they immediately stopped. None of the bars were fined or cited, according to OPD.

“Our downtown units encountered 4 bars that were serving alcohol and had patrons sitting at the bar drinking,” a department spokesperson said in an email. “In each case, our officers educated the managers at their premises, and each of them decided on their own to close down for the night when given the option to sell alcohol to-go. Each manager advised they misunderstood the Governor’s Orders. All of the businesses were compliant and managers were appreciative of the education, once the Governor’s Order was explained by the officers."

According to police reports Swiggs, Pourhouse, Dapper Duck Bar and Underground had customers sitting at the bar consuming alcohol. That’s when OPD got involved.

Three of the four bar owners declined to comment, but one told News 6 it was a misunderstanding. They thought if 51% of their current sales came from food, alcohol consumption inside the bar would be okay. Orlando police chief Orlando Rolon said current sales don’t count.

“The proceeds from food sales versus alcohol sales for the last year’s tax numbers is what they have to abide by. It can’t be what they’re currently selling as food versus alcohol that justifies them being able to sell something that’s consumed on premises," said Rolon.

That’s what he said distinguishes bars from restaurants.

[RELATED: Everything you need to know about phase one of reopening Florida]

While restaurants were given the green light to open for limited capacity in-house dining under the governor’s phase one reopening executive order, bars and nightclubs were not. If an establishment makes a majority of its annual earnings from alcohol sales they are not allowed to reopen yet. However, they can sell drinks to-go.

Due to the coronavirus, Florida bars and clubs were closed through two major celebratory holidays, St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.

It’s unclear how long phase one of the governor’s order will last. He said he will announce phase two reopening soon depending on coronavirus positive cases and how things go this week under the first stage.

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