Hillsborough announces coronavirus restrictions on bars, restaurants, nightlife

Those establishments must close by 10 p.m. every night and limit occupancy to 50 percent of capacity, according to an order issued by the county administrator.
Published March 17, 2020|Updated March 17, 2020

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Hillsborough County late Monday night joined the Tampa Bay governments restricting nightlife to limit the spread of coronavirus in Florida.

Bars, restaurants, clubs and other establishments within the county must close by 10 p.m. starting noon Tuesday, according to an order issued Monday by Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill.

Those establishments will also have to limit their occupancy load by 50 percent. They can continue to offer take-out food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Related: Coronavirus: No drinking after 9 in St. Petersburg; Tampa bars and restaurants must close at 10

Experts say the most effective way to slow the virus’s spread and ensure public health facilities are not overwhelmed, is to practice “social distancing." That means refraining from gathering in groups and keeping a 6-foot distance from other people when possible.

Hillsborough County joined the bay area’s major cities in imposing restrictions. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Monday ordering those establishments, plus bowling alleys, movie theaters and the Cross Bay Ferry, to limit occupancy to 50 percent. Last call in the city will also be at 9 p.m.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor imposed the same occupancy restriction on the city’s bars and restaurants and ordered them to close at 10 p.m.

But in Pinellas County, the other 22 cities did not follow St. Petersburg’s lead.

The order says the county recognizes that the restrictions could impact Hillsborough businesses and has been working to find public programs that can assist.

The county will continue monitor the situation alongside state and federal agencies, the order said, and could impose further restrictions.

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