Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Friday that Florida will be moving into full Phase 3 of reopening with no limitations on restaurants effective immediately.

Phase 3 means there will be no limitation on restaurant capacity, and can operate at a minimum of 50% capacity, regardless of rules by the local government.

DeSantis also said municipalities must justify rules limiting restaurant capacity between 50-100%.

DeSantis made the announcement from The Birchwood, a St. Pete hotel which includes a restaurant and popular rooftop bar. 

The governor hinted at ending the capacity restriction on Thursday, saying while he understands there is a chance of a spread of the coronavirus, “we can’t have these businesses dying.”

“I don’t think that the closure of restaurants has been particularly effective,” DeSantis said Thursday in the Capitol. “They’re not going to be able to be closed by locals anymore, and they’ll be able to operate at the capacity that they’re comfortable with.”

Florida, once considered the epicenter of the pandemic, has seen decreasing numbers since hitting a peak in the summer. The Florida Department of Health has not reported over 10,000 cases daily since July. The average number of cases per day in the last couple of weeks has been around 2,700.

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The original plan for Phase 3 allows for the following changes:

  • Individuals older than 65 years of age and individuals with a serious underlying medical condition can resume public interactions, but should practice social distancing.
  • Non-vulnerable populations should consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments.
  • Non-essential travel may continue.
  • Employees should resume unrestricted staffing of worksites and implement the final phasing in of employees returning to work.
  • Employees should resume non-essential travel and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
  • Local government meetings should return to in-person quorum and public participation for local government bodies.
  • Bars, pubs, and nightclubs that derive more than 50 percent of sales from alcohol should operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols. Businesses should maintain adequate sanitation practices.
  • Restaurants and food service establishments may operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols. Businesses should maintain adequate sanitation practices.
  • Gyms and fitness centers should open to full capacity but should maintain adequate sanitation practices among employees and patrons during all hours of operation.
  • State parks should be fully opened, including overnight accommodations. Beaches should remain fully open.
  • Large venues such as movie theaters, concert halls, and bowling alleys should re-open fully with limited social distancing protocols.
  • Large spectator sporting events should consider reducing capacity with limited social distancing protocols.
  • Theme parks may return to normal operations with limited social distancing protocols.
  • Salons, barbershops and nail salons, should operate under full capacity but should consider removing all unnecessary, frequent-touch items such as magazines and newspapers, and maintain sanitation standards.
  • Retail businesses should operate at full capacity.

The above are subject to change. This is a developing story. Check back for details. 

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