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Maria Scudella-Beltran

Uncertainty Continues to Grow Among South Florida Business Owners


Lately, there’s been quite a bit of uncertainty that surrounded South Florida businesses as they struggled to shift into the Phased re-opening plans proposed by their respective city official.

Since its initial closure due to the Coronavirus pandemic, South Florida businesses were on track a couple of weeks ago to move into Phase II of re-opening, which allowed restaurants to open for indoor dining so long as the restaurant was considered to earn 51% of their business from food-based sales and not alcohol-based sales. With that being said that left bar business owners closed, even though they served food, if a majority of their revenue came from alcohol sales (51%) then they were not allowed to reopen.

Even with these limitations, South Florida witnessed outrageous growths in Coronavirus claims, so some more modifications were made. Obviously, all these changes have business owners, their staff, and customers frustrated. These drastic changes mainly have to do with certain businesses not following compliance standards when they did open.

Pages on local social media channels were posting pictures and videos of people hanging out at bars along the beach and not keeping a social distance from others or wearing masks. If a restaurant that had a bar was operating, then they needed to close off the bar section of their restaurant and could serve drinks at one’s table. Because of the unclear guidelines and back and forth changes many businesses were confused about how to operate and this left some business owners with some hefty fines and closures.

Residents Agree… Well, for the Most Part!

Many residents agree with the decision to keep bars closed and maintain stricter guidelines. There have been several incidents where a night out caused a spread of COVID-19 amongst family and friends. A few weeks ago there was a story of 16 friends that went to a bar and all 16 of them have Coronavirus. Lori Winner, a member of Living in Oakland Park Facebook group, commented: “Just stay home, it’s not that hard.”

Another member, Kilan Raulerson, said “They don’t know much about this virus. They are still learning as they go. And have admitted that. They have been so back and forth about it. They cannot say 100% that they all contracted it from there [Jacksonville bar]. Hell, they also once admitted that people who stayed inside during shut down and did what they were told, still got it [COVID-19]. I don’t know and they don’t either. There has been so much misinformation about this virus, it’s ridiculous!”.

Business Owners Facing Multiple Fines in Broward County

Some establishments in Fort Lauderdale were shut down for not complying. A majority of these businesses were fined $250 except for one that had repeat violations and was facing fines of $15,000. In a news report (by Local 10) it stated that “Code officers found people dining at high top tables pushed up against the bar.” Some of the violations of these establishments included:

  • Not wearing facial coverings;
  • No social distancing;
  • No signs posted;
  • Using bar area/allowing customers to drink at bar.

Some of these establishments have been able to re-open so long as they continue to follow the compliance standards set by the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Community Enhancement and Compliance Division.

Are Stricter Enforcements on the Horizon for Broward County?

On July 6th Miami-Dade County Mayor, Carlos Gimenez, announced he signed an emergency order that took effect on July 8th, where dining was no longer allowed in Miami-Dade restaurants. A day later on July 7th, the Mayor modified this restriction by allowing “dine-in” for restaurants as long as they were seated outdoors (socially distant) and there were no more than four people per table.

Residents of Broward were curious to see if Broward County will follow suit. Some Oakland Park residents feel it would be necessary, while others not. On Living in Oakland Park group on Facebook, members reacted to the news. Michelle Gauck said “No Broward should not follow. Miami has more than double the numbers [of Broward].”

Michael Cooper believes Broward should follow suit stating, “Yes, please close Broward too, or else they’ll all be up here! I just can’t figure people out. Before when the cases were lower we all stayed home. Just because we’re tired of staying home everyone went out again. Now there are record cases but yet they still want to go out? Are you all nuts? I want to see 2 weeks of declining cases, then I’ll wait a couple more weeks before I will go out to an inside restaurant.”

Even our own City of Oakland Park Mayor, Matt Sparks, chimed in on the thread to offer some insight:

“I want to say I have been following this thread while also being on the Countywide Mayor’s call. Something I would like to share is that while the bed space at the hospitals has not met it’s capacity, they do not have the staff to support the patient numbers. If we keep going in the upward direction, we will certainly overwhelm the system. On a Federal level, they have provided the STATE with 1,500 nurses, that is for the entire state. Each person must take personal responsibility to keep each other safe. You leave the house; take a mask wear it in public. We all want to keep everyone healthy. Please follow CDC Guidelines; I wear a mask because I care about YOU. We shall see what the County decides”.

As of July 8th, Broward County announced Emergency Order 20-21, which, “limits tables in restaurants to no more than six customers and also requires restaurants close indoor dining and stop serving food and drinks at 10 p.m. They will still be allowed to operate for takeout and delivery services”.

Only Time Will Tell

As we continue to monitor the spread of the virus as well as people’s reaction to local and state directives, only time will tell what path our state and county will ultimately take toward full recovery. 


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