Broward, Miami-Dade bars reopen after DeSantis moves Florida into Phase 3

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Patrons returned to bars across South Florida this weekend after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light to businesses to move into Phase 3 of reopening, raising concerns about a possible resurgence of the coronavirus.

7News cameras captured a bustling crowd at the Elbo Room in Fort Lauderdale, Saturday night.

“I’m so excited to be back at the bars,” said a man.

“This bar is amazing,” said a woman.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said the man.

Social distancing was hardly being observed, and only a few patrons were seen wearing face masks.

Mike Penrod, who owns the Elbo Room, said his business was hit hard by the lockdown.

“Being closed six months has been really difficult for the employees, the customers, the family. It’s been really difficult,” he said.

DeSantis confirmed he was pushing the state to Phase 3 during a news conference on Friday, opening the doors for bars and nightclubs, and allowing restaurants to serve at full capacity.

The governor’s executive order also stops cities and counties from collecting fines from anyone who is not wearing a face covering.

But not everyone is in a celebratory mood.

Debbie Nelms, who is visiting from Houston, said she is shocked at how quickly Florida is moving forward.

“COVID is still very real,” she said.

Bars were not as packed in Miami’s Wynwood section, Saturday night.

City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who contracted the virus early in the pandemic and recovered, said he is none too pleased with the governor’s decision.

“He’s taking some of these decisions out of our ability to regulate them, going and opening bars and not allowing us to fine people or businesses that are breaking the rules,” he said. “That, to me, is a significant handicap.”

In Broward County, bars and restaurants are required to maintain social distancing and enforce those guidelines on their customers.

It’s unclear whether any local agencies will still be able to hold those businesses accountable for breaking social distancing guidelines.

To read DeSantis’ full executive order, click here.

Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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