Texas and Florida Reverse Course, Ban Bars from Selling Alcohol On-Site Again

The move to restrict on-premise sales comes as cases of COVID-19 spike in many states across the country following phased reopening.

Tourism on Hollywood Beach FL night photo tourists sitting on tables eating and drinking
June 14, 2020: Tourists at Hollywood Beach, FL. Photo: felixmizioznikov/Getty Images

Since states across the country began shutting down or otherwise restricting the services of restaurants, bars, and other businesses due the coronavirus pandemic, the question that has been at the front of many Americans’ minds has been “when will we reopen?” While places like New York City, once a hotspot of outbreaks, have seen daily cases drop significantly since instituting social distancing and mask protocols while approaching reopening conservatively, other states that have proceeded more rapidly with reopening phases are suffering from a record-setting surge in new COVID-19 cases.

Today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) announced an immediate suspension of on-premise alcohol sales at bars and similar businesses that derive at least 51 percent of their profits from alcohol sales. The DBPR was already responsible for policing violations of social distancing and capacity regulations during the previously relaxed reopening plan, which still allows restaurants to operate at 75-percent capacity.


State officials in Florida reported an all-time high of 8,942 new cases of coronavirus in a single day on Friday, beating the previous record—just set on Wednesday—of 5,508 cases, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Florida had allowed bars in much of the state, save for some higher-populated areas, to reopen at limited capacity on June 5.

Similarly, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all bars to close their facilities to patrons effective Friday, June 26 at noon local time, while restaurants must pare down operations to 50-percent capacity indoors effective Monday. Previously, bars had been given the okay to allow 50 percent of their legal capacity indoors and restaurants could seat up to 75 percent of capacity.

In both cases, bars will continue to be allowed to sell delivery and to-go alcohol, a provision that has expanded to 34 states and has been a lifeline for struggling businesses since the U.S. wave of the pandemic began.

For some business owners, the reversal means scrapping existing plans and investments in safety measures to allow customers back in through their doors. And workers whose jobs might be affected by closures or limited service are put back into the position of once again filing for unemployment at a time when the supplemental CARES Act is set to stop payments the week of July 26, 2020 without any indication from Congress that an extension will be passed.

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