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Florida lifts COVID restrictions on restaurants

Eating and drinking places can immediately resume their pre-pandemic operations, including full use of dining rooms.
Florida restrictions
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants in Florida can resume dine-in service at pre-pandemic levels under an executive order drafted Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Virtually all other COVID-related operating restrictions on restaurants and bars in the state are also lifted. The changes take effect upon DeSantis' signing of the executive order, which he promised during a press conference to do later today.

DeSantis took the additional step of forbidding county and local governments within Florida from setting their own caps on dine-in capacities should those areas see a spike in new COVID cases. Under the executive order, other restrictions cannot be imposed on eating and drinking places without a formal justification based on health or economic concerns.  Even with that justification, indoor dining cannot be dropped below 50% of restaurants' capacities. 

The governor also specified that no business can be closed by a local or county government because of coronavirus concerns.

Florida, which is home to more restaurants than any other state except California and Texas, follows Indiana in eliminating dine-in capacity caps put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus. Indiana’s limits will be lifted on Saturday.

Restaurants in Florida were formerly limited to 50% of their indoor dining space, with a social-distancing requirement often frustrating their efforts to use as many seats as possible within that cap.

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