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DeSantis Vows To Ease Restrictions on Bars, Breweries Soon

Mike Harting, of 3 Daughters Brewing, talks near a beer barrel about business
SCREENSHOT: Florida Channel/WUSF
Mike Harting of 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg, says consumer confidence is gradually coming back.

Florida suspended drinking at bars in late June, as some blamed a rise in cases of coronavirus on late-night drinking and lack of social distancing.

Governor Ron DeSantis talked with local brewery owners Thursday in St. Petersburg about their business struggles due to the coronavirus pandemic, and their prospects for fully reopening.

"We started out down 70 to 75 percent in the middle of all of this. We are down less than half now," said Mike Harting, who runs Three Daughters Brewing.

"That confidence is definitely coming back in the consumer," he said.

In late June, as coronavirus cases spiked, Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears restricted bar sales of alcohol.

DeSantis said he expects to change that soon and that the order will come from the governor's office.

“I’ve told him I want every business in Florida operating. And we pretty much have 99 percent – you guys are kind of the last ones, everyone else is up and running," DeSantis said.

Some establishments have stayed alive by selling food, so patrons could also purchase alcohol and drink it on-site. But that workaround didn't fit every brewery owner.

"They have had it the roughest, there is no doubt about it," the governor said.

It's still unclear when or how the rules will change.

DeSantis said any restrictions lifted on bars will vary based on the rate of COVID-19 cases in each community.

The governor said he is still working out the details of how — and when — bars and breweries will be able to sell alcohol for customers to consume on-site.