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Florida warned nearly 900 bars to follow Gov. DeSantis’ emergency order to close

Florida inspectors and liquor agents conducted 8,700 compliance inspections since bars were ordered to close for 30 days.

In the nine days after Gov. Ron DeSantis stopped beer from flowing in taps, Florida inspectors and liquor agents told nearly 900 bars that were defying the order that they needed to close, according to records from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

On March 17, DeSantis issued an emergency order for all bars and nightclubs to close for 30 days, but the bars that also sold food could remain open and only sell food for that period.

Statewide, 150 inspectors and liquor agents conducted about 8,700 compliance examinations. Between March 17-26, state employees in the Tampa Bay region visited 1,067 establishments, the second highest in the state, records show. The Broward and Miami regions recorded 1,341 and 1,003, respectively.

So far, agents and inspectors have only issued warnings and distributed informational packets and have not launched administrative cases, which often lead to civil fines, as a way to educate business owners about the governor’s order, spokeswoman Karen Smith said. The state planned to educate business owners about the closure instead of taking legal action, Smith previously said.

As fears continue to grow about the virus spreading in crowds, residents have lodged 566 complaints against businesses who were violating the order, records show.

The emergency order was designed to tamp down on the spread of the coronavirus, but sheriffs in Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas each said their deputies would not enforce the order and instead would refer cases to state inspectors. The Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office are enforcing the order.

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