Fort Lauderdale Mayor's Order Clarifies Rules for Bars and Restaurants Amid Phase 3 Reopening

Under Fort Lauderdale's emergency order, businesses are still required to have employees and customers wear masks, despite local fines for people who refuse to wear them being banned under Phase 3.

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Fort Lauderdale's mayor has continued the trend of clarifying Florida's phase 3 reopening, issuing an emergency order on Wednesday which outlines new public health regulations for businesses.

Under mayor Dean Trantalis' order, businesses are still required to have employees and customers wear masks, despite Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banning local fines for people who refuse to wear them under Phase 3.

Trantalis says the masks are a "needed protection," that can still prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the mayor, Fort Lauderdale has had an infection rate below 5% for the month of September.

DeSantis' phase 3 emergency order last Friday lifted many of the COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and other businesses across the state.

The order allows businesses to immediately reopen at full capacity and prevents cities and counties from ordering them to close or operate at less than half-capacity, unless they can justify a closure for economic or health reasons.

Trantalis' order does comply with the new rules, but maintains that restaurants keep six-feet of distance between tables and customers waiting in line. Restaurants are also allowed to operate until midnight.

"We saw over the weekend that everyone went kind of hog wild and we didn’t see a lot of social distancing and people wearing masks and it scared a lot of people and us as government leaders to say 'hey, this isn’t what the governor intended,'" Trantalis said. "We felt that since there’s been no further direction from the county, we thought we needed to step in, at least for now, and to give these businesses some measure of guidance and direction going forward and I thought we did so in a very responsible way."

Bars and nightclubs have also reopened for the first time since the pandemic began. They will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity indoors and 100 percent capacity outside, similar to the rules previously placed on restaurants during phase 2.

Just like restaurants both businesses are allowed to operate until midnight, but social distancing must be enforced.

Fort Lauderdale's emergency order is just the latest in a series of attempts by local South Florida leaders to clarify the state's phase 3 reopening.

In a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the county would continue to issue citations for wearing masks, though fines wouldn't be collected.

City of Miami Mayor Carlos Suarez urged people to continue wearing masks, saying the city has seen a 90% drop in the spread of coronavirus since implementing a mask rule.

Bars and restaurants can operate at 100% if they keep six feet of social distancing between tables in place, but they can still be fined or closed if they don't comply, Suarez said. Food and beverages can only be consumed when people are seated, and loud music isn't permitted, in an attempt to stop people from yelling, Suarez said.

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