Governor Ron DeSantis ordered all bars and nightclubs to close across the state for 30 days beginning at 5 p.m. on Tuesday as area workers in that industry braced for the economic fallout from that decision.
This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to the Northwest Florida Daily News.
DESTIN — The reality of Tuesday morning’s executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis that all bars and nightclubs across the state must close by 5 p.m. Tuesday and remain closed for 30 days, hit home quickly in the area.
At the Best Western hotel on Okaloosa Island, General Manager Paula Evans said that their two popular bars — The Swizzle Stick and the outdoor Tiki Club — would both close immediately.
"That's the governor's mandate, and we're definitely going to follow that for the safety of everybody," Evans said. "We know how difficult it's going to be for employees, but we're doing this for everyone's safety."
At Destin bar Lucky’s Rotten Apple, the doors were going to stay open past 5 p.m. because they serve food — Tuesday it was tacos — but General Manager Josh Johnson was well aware of the impact on their industry.
DeSantis ordered all restaurants to operate at 50% capacity, observe social distancing guidelines and screen all employees before they began shifts.
"You let reality sink in ... you can’t be open, you can't make money," Johnson said. "That's the bottom line for anything. It’s going to get really difficult."
RELATED: CORONAVIRUS NWF - What’s open & what’s not? - A list of closures and what is still open
RELATED: TRACK THE CORONAVIRUS: Interactive map from FDOH with updates and places
The state's definition of what is a bar and what is a restaurant came into sharper focus as well. According to DeSantis’ executive order, any establishment "licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises that derive more than 50% of its gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages shall suspended (sic) all sale of alcoholic beverages for thirty days from this date beginning at 5 p.m. on March 17, 2020."
Bars in Okaloosa County that do not serve food are regulated by the Department of Health, while restaurants are regulated by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
DeSantis’ order gives the Department of Business and Professional Regulation the authority to "utilize its authorities under Florida law" to enforce the order in regards to bars, nightclubs and restaurants to follow the order as it pertains to "public health, safety and welfare."
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation has the authority to shut down any bar or restaurant it deems a threat to public health or safety — the same authority it would use to shut down any establishment that did not adhere to what’s outlined in the executive order.
For McGuire's Irish Pub in Destin, the announcement came on what is likely their busiest day of the year — St. Patrick's Day — and with a massive day of celebrations already planned and a full house by 11 a.m., less than one hour after DeSantis spoke.
"I think it's a little too early for us to know anything for certain," McGuire's spokesperson Billy Martin said. "We are playing it by ear."