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Florida restaurants, bars could face license suspensions should they violate COVID-19 executive order

Jake Allen
Naples Daily News
Walton Sun

Restaurants, bars and nightclubs that do not comply with restrictions in the governor’s COVID-19 executive order may face license suspensions, according to Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Bars and nightclubs across the state that derive more than 50% of their gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to stop the sale of alcohol under the order.

The order also requires restaurants to limit their occupancy rate to 50% and follow CDC guidelines by ensuring a 6-foot distance between groups while limiting parties to no more than 10 people.

Additional enforcement action by state or local law enforcement agencies may be taken against people or entities that do not comply with the executive order, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation clarified in information released Wednesday night.

It remains unclear what specific actions local law enforcement agencies could take against violators.

Karen Smith, director of communications for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said local ordinances may apply and local law enforcement agencies should have details.

Karie Partington, a spokeswoman for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, said it’s up to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to decide what actions can be taken by local law enforcement to enforce the order.

Before local law enforcement agencies were given authority to enforce the order, Partington said if her department received complaints it would send deputies out to the location of the complaint with a copy of the executive order to give to a manager or owner.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation would then be notified, Partington said.

The Cape Coral Police Department is taking a similar approach and will distribute copies of the executive order to managers of establishments allegedly in violation. The department will then document and forward the incident along, said Master Sgt. Patrick O’Grady.

Caitlyn Mumma, a public information officer with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, previously said her department was educating local businesses of the order and encouraging anyone who witnesses a violation to report it to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The Marco Island Police Department is also educating those within its jurisdiction of the executive order and began face-to-face notifications at bars, pubs, nightclubs and restaurants on the island Wednesday, said Capt. David Baer.

Officers handed out a copy of the executive order and a letter from the Marco Island Police Department during the face-to-face notifications.

“As law enforcement officials, we are required to uphold the executive order,” the letter reads. “Establishments that disregard these mandates risk license revocation as well as potential criminal charges.”

If a violation of the executive order is reported or observed on Marco Island, an officer will investigate, then notify the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Baer said.

Officers from the Napes Police Department will advise complainants to contact the Department of Business and Professional Regulation if they see a violation, said Lt. Bryan McGinn.

Mitch Haley, a Fort Myers Police Department spokesman, did not provide details on how his department was responding to the executive other than that they are working with the Florida Alcohol, Beverage and Tobacco Division to enforce it.

Information from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation released Wednesday night provides further clarifies the executive order.

Restaurants will determine what 50% of their occupancy is by dividing in half the number established by the local building or fire authority.

To keep customers 6 feet apart or further, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is prohibiting the use of bars or counters and only table seating will be allowed at restaurants.

Each establishment is responsible for configuring dining areas so that the distance exists between each table by either removing tables or blocking certain ones.

The department is also discouraging waiting areas at restaurants for seating or take-out orders. Restaurants should have patrons wait in their vehicles or another safe location then call them when ready.

Restaurants are also required to screen their employees for illness under the executive order.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation may also examine establishment’s records of all sales, purchases, or other acquisitions of alcoholic beverages and accounts of licenses to determine compliance with the executive order.

The executive order is set to last until April 16.

How to file a complaint:

For restaurant complaints, contact the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 850-487-1395 or fill out an online complaint form.

This story originally published to naplesnews.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.