ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando area government leaders say they’re hopeful the State of Florida can come up with a way to safely reopen bars and breweries after being shut down amid high coronavirus numbers.
On Sunday, the head of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Halsey Beshears, sent a tweet signaling meetings would start on Friday to explore ways for bars to reopen.
“I have great sympathy for the bar owners,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “They have probably been impacted more than just about anybody.”
During a coronavirus news conference, Dyer said the situation is extremely difficult.
“I think there needs to be some strict monitoring. We need to be able to hold the owners accountable. We need to have set standards, so all bars would adhere to the same thing,” he said.
“I want to make sure we do the right thing for all of our residents,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.
“It’s a very difficult balance not to be alarmist, but not to be too optimistic,” said Dr. Raul Pino, Health Officer for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.
Pino said he applauds the exploration of getting the businesses back open, but he said he fears the potential spread of the coronavirus as numbers start falling statewide.
“The people who are attracted to a bar that is full of people jumping and having fun and sharing it with their friends — that’s a concern,” he said.
“I’m hopeful, but that only goes so far,” said Aaron Dudek.
Dudek co-owns three bars in the downtown Orlando area: The Lodge, The Woods and Burton’s in Thornton Park.
He said the mandated shut down has hurt a lot of bars, and he fears some may not be able to reopen.
“We’re literally just now calling our landlord and begging and pleading to help us and work with us,” he said.
He said his staff followed the guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We were only letting in half -- at most -- for occupancy. We have hand sanitizer stations and signs everywhere. We did everything and beyond what they told us to do,” he said.
Pino addressed whether he thought reopening bars could happen safely.
“I would like to see what they come up with,” he told News 6. “I don’t know how it would be possible in general. I think it has to be done for each of the independent circumstances.”
Beshears said DBPR would be meeting with bars and breweries across the state.
On Monday, Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, tweeted to Beshears welcoming him to hold meetings in the Orlando area.
She told News 6 on Monday night that some of them may happen in Central Florida on Saturday.