COVID-19 Legal Answers

(WSVN) - Does a bar owner have to pay his rent if the state orders his bar closed? If you are afraid of sick customers at work, can you wear a mask? Lots of questions coming into 7News from you, and Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser will continue to be here to get you the answers.

Cesar owns Bougainvillea’s, which was a popular South Miami bar.

I say “was” because the governor has ordered all bars and nightclubs shut down for the next 30 days.

Cesar Rincon, Bougainvillea’s bar: “Very weird times, tough times.”

Being a business owner without business income is terrible for Cesar and his 20 employees.

Cesar Rincon: “We are thinking about the staff that relies on the tips from customers.”

His employees are scrambling to make ends meet, and so is Cesar because his landlord expects a rent check soon.

Cesar Rincon: “There’s no money coming in. How are we going to be paying rent?”

Howard, it makes sense that the governor would close the bars, but it’s devastating for not just the employees, but also the owners, so do they still have to pay their rent even though they were ordered to close?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “Yes, the state of emergency does not change the contract between a landlord and a tenant, but you can’t get blood from a turnip, and a good landlord should work with a good tenant to get through this crisis.”

So many questions are coming in, so Howard, let’s get to them.

The place you work at shuts down. Can you collect unemployment?

Howard Finkelstein: “It’s not based on whether your are a full time or part time employee. It’s based on your record of earnings during the past year, but the politicians say changes are coming to help make it easier to collect unemployment because of the virus, so stay informed.”

A woman called us. She said she was having a big birthday party for her daughter in a couple of weeks and signed a contract to rent bounce houses and things like that. Since it’s more than 50 people, she had to cancel. The business said, “We get to keep 50% of your money because you cancelled.” Is that legal?

Howard Finkelstein: “It depends on the contract. If the business is open and the customer wants to be safe and cancel the kid’s party, the business can keep the money if the contract says they can keep it.”

We are hearing from a lot of people who are still working. One woman at a doctor’s office, a fellow from a grocery store. Howard, they see customers sneezing and coughing, and they want to know what they can do about it.

Howard Finkelstein: “Not much. Your boss can make you come to work, even though you may be afraid some of those customers are sick. If you have vacation time, you can take it, or if you feel you are at risk, just quit but have a plan to survive without that paycheck.”

One person had a solution. They said, “Can she wear a mask at work?”

Howard Finkelstein: “It’s up to the boss. The employee cannot wear a mask if the company says no masks. Although, it might be smart to let them wear masks if you want to make sure those employees stay healthy, so they can work.”

Another work-related question, Howard: a woman told us her boss is checking people’s temperature when they come into work every morning. Can they do that?

Howard Finkelstein: “If it’s job-related, yes, they can, and we are in a state of emergency, so a company can check your temperature, and if they choose, send you home.”

Howard, we are hearing a common theme in a lot of your answers. The law doesn’t make exceptions when a virus hits.

Howard Finkelstein: “No, it doesn’t, but these are old laws, and don’t be surprised if you see some changes in Congress or the state legislature to deal with the issues people are facing because of the coronavirus.”

One thing, we are truly all in this together, but while Cesar is dealing with damage from a closed business, he is still thinking about his employees without a paycheck, and he has a solution.

Cesar Rincon: “So, the event is on Friday through Facebook and Instagram Live. Whiskey All Stars will be playing in our living room, from our living room to your living room. People can make donations. We will be putting up the GoFundMe link.”

The link to the Facebook page to watch the band play is under this Help Me Howard story. Maybe you can watch, chip in a few dollars to help the employees, and Cesar says when they reopen, anyone who donates will get a free drink from him.

We will get through this. It will be easier if we help each other.

If you need help, remember, we are here to answer your questions and solve your coronavirus problems.

Bougainvillea’s social media pages where Whiskey All Stars will perform from their living room:

Facebook Live:

Instagram page where IG live will be:

To donate to help the employees:

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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