Broward to require restaurants to close dining rooms at 10 p.m., limit seating to 6 per table

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Broward County officials have signed an emergency order limiting restaurant capacity and dining room hours.

Emergency Order 20-21, announced Wednesday, limits tables in restaurants to no more than six customers, although that number goes up to 10 if all diners are from the same household.

The order also requires restaurants to close all dining and stop serving food and drinks at 10 p.m. Restaurants will still be allowed to operate for takeout and delivery services.

“The essence of this is to help to reduce the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19,” said Broward County Mayor Dale Holness. “We’ve seen a tremendous rise in the number of cases and an increase in percentage of people who tested positive.”

Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale was far from empty, Wednesday night, as customers stopped for dinner at local restaurants while passers-by were seen taking a stroll.

“People are out enjoying themselves,” said diner Emma Hoffman.

Another customer, Ervin Joshua, said he approves of the county tightening restrictions.

“Hopefully this will help flatten the curve and keep everything level until we get a vaccine,” he said.

A 7News crew spotted a group of about six people not wearing masks and laughing about it.

The emergency order also stipulates that only 10 people will be allowed at vacation rentals. Only those who have signed the rental lease will be allowed on the property.

Officials said people partnering up at vacation rentals has been a problem in the county.

“Many of these vacation rentals are being utilized as party places, and the virus is being spread there,” said Holness.

Some restaurant owners and managers along Las Olas said shutting down two hours early every night isn’t the best news, but they’re relieved they’re able to keep their dining rooms open.

“We’ll just have to roll with it and make some adjustments,” said Chris Erisman, the manager of El Camino restaurant. “We have a couple of tables that were set for 10, and now we’ve taken that number down, and we’re going to make the tables a little smaller.”

The restrictions could mean shaving hours off of employees’ already slimmed-down paychecks.

Hoffman said she’s skeptical as to how much the county’s steps will actually help.

“What difference does that make in the cases? Maybe there’s more people contact, but it could happen either way,” she said.

“Whatever we’ve got to do to keep things going in the right direction for Broward,” said Erisman.

Holness said that residents need to take responsibility in helping stem the spread of COVID-19.

“If we don’t all take responsibility to reduce the spread of this virus, what will happen is that the economy will continue to be stagnant or even get worse,” he said, “because people are not going to be comfortable about going out to dine or to spend money.”

The new emergency order, which goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, comes after Miami-Dade County announced that restaurants would be closed for indoor dining starting Thursday.

Restaurants found to be in violation of the order will be required to close for 24 hours for the first offense and remain closed for 72 hours for every offense after that.

The order does not apply to gyms or fitness studios.

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