You can still get a drink in Tampa Bay despite coronavirus. Here’s how.

From statewide rules to county rules to city rules, we break down where and when you can get a drink in these stressful times.
People drink outside Five Bucks Drinkery in downtown St. Petersburg on Monday. Last call in the city is 9 p.m. until further notice.
People drink outside Five Bucks Drinkery in downtown St. Petersburg on Monday. Last call in the city is 9 p.m. until further notice. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published March 18, 2020|Updated March 18, 2020

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The coronavirus pandemic is raging. Retirement accounts are tanking. The economy is on edge. People are living in fear. Publix is out of eggs.

Well, damn, I need a drink.

Long a favorite coping mechanism, alcohol can loosen the shoulders and get people together. But alcohol’s appeal as a social lubricant is exactly what’s gotten it tangled up in the coronavirus chaos.

In an effort to reduce crowds and promote social distancing to slow the spread of the virus — which can be transmitted through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing — local and state officials have placed restrictions on businesses that sell the sauce.

Now getting that drink requires near fluency in the language of public administration.

So here, we decipher the rules on taking the edge off.

Statewide rules

When different levels of government have different rules, it’s helpful to start in the largest jurisdiction — in this case, the state of Florida — and work down.

In an executive order, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday declared that all establishments that derive more than 50 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales are prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages for 30 days.

That was starting Tuesday. Only 29 days left.

Related: Florida bars and nightclubs to close, students ordered home, DeSantis says

The move targets bars and nightclubs, the kinds of businesses where patrons may congregate in tight quarters.

The order doesn’t explicitly prevent those businesses from opening. Some businesses classified as bars or nightclubs may serve food or offer other attractions. It’s possible some establishments may try to adjust their business models to make it through the month.

But the state’s action will inevitably force many bars to lock their doors.

The state’s action also doesn’t apply to businesses classified as restaurants, which may continue to serve alcohol if they’re licensed to do so. The executive order does require restaurants to limit their capacity by 50 percent, keep patrons at least six feet apart and prohibit parties larger than 10.

Hillsborough County and Tampa

Hillsborough and Tampa businesses must abide by state rules.

Additionally, the county and city require restaurants, private clubs and other establishments that serve food and drinks to close by 10 p.m. They must remain closed until 6 a.m.

Related: Hillsborough announces coronavirus restrictions on bars, restaurants, nightlife

Pinellas County

As in Hillsborough, Pinellas businesses must abide by state rules.

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County officials have moved last call up to 10 p.m. Pinellas’ rules don’t specify that restaurants must close by then. But they must go dry.

Related: Pinellas announces coronavirus restrictions on alcohol sales and restaurants

St. Petersburg

Pinellas officials say they and executives in all 24 municipalities agreed to implement the same rules to achieve countywide uniformity.

But on Monday, St. Petersburg went its own direction, setting last call at 9 p.m. for restaurants serving alcohol.

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

Mayor Rick Kriseman denied he knew of any countywide agreement.

Retail rules

None of the local or statewide restrictions prohibit alcohol sales at stores or gas stations. They only apply to places where alcohol is consumed on the premises.

Don’t want to go out? None of these emergency coronavirus rules prohibit retailers from delivering through services like Drizly.

Distill it for me

It’s the end of a long day and you just want to know where you can and can’t buy booze?

You cannot get a drink at any bar or nightclub in Florida for a month.

In Tampa and Hillsborough, restaurants can still serve alcohol until 10 p.m., at which point those businesses must close until 6 a.m. the next day.

Last call in Pinellas County is also 10 p.m., except in St. Petersburg, where last call is at 9.

The surest bet might be to stock up. Last call at your place is up to you.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

EVENT CANCELLATIONS: Get the latest updates on events planned in the Tampa Bay area in the coming weeks.

STORES REACT TO VIRUS: Some businesses adjust hours or announce temporary closings.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.

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