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Following other local governments across the Tampa Bay area, Pinellas County enacted measures late Tuesday to restrict nightlife in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus across the region.
Restaurants and other establishments within the county must stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m. starting on Wednesday, according to an order issued by Pinellas County administrator Barry Burton. The order specifically targets establishments where alcohol is sold and consumed on site, not retailers like stores and gas stations.
“We will continue to monitor and make adjustments accordingly," Burton said. “It will help keep our residents safe.”
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the order doesn’t target alcohol or people having a drink at dinner.
“This is about people gathering in massive groups,” the sheriff said. “This is a serious problem that requires a serious response.”
Gualtieri warned that it’s a crime to violate any of the state or local orders that have been issued in recent days. He said the county would rather educate the public instead of having deputies take enforcement actions.
Burton and other leaders were worried about bars and clubs, but Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an order to close all bars and nightclubs for 30 days starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Specifically, the governor’s executive order states that any business that makes over half its revenue from alcohol sales cannot sell drinks for the next 30 days.
Experts say the most effective way to slow the virus’ spread and ensure public health facilities are not overwhelmed, is to practice “social distancing." That means refraining from gathering in groups and keeping a six-foot distance from other people when possible.
On Monday, Hillsborough County joined the bay area’s major cities in imposing restrictions. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman ordered those establishments, plus bowling alleys, movie theaters and the Cross Bay Ferry, to limit occupancy to 50 percent. Last call in the city will 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.
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