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'It’s The Wild West’: South Florida Restaurants Confused How To Enforce COVID-19 Rules During Phase 3

Amy Beth Bennett
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Co-owner Patty Miranda greets customers as they enter the Olympia Flame Diner in Deerfield Beach on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. The restaurant plans to limit its seating capacity.

Broward and Palm Beach restaurants surged with customers on the first weekend under Florida’s eased Phase 3 restrictions – leaving owners more confused about COVID rules than relieved about higher sales.

“It’s the Wild West,” says Tim Petrillo, whose hospitality group runs 11 bars, restaurants and clubs in Fort Lauderdale. Foot traffic picked up over the weekend at his restaurant-bars Township and S3, which turned away more customers than usual without masks. "We’re closing our places at 11 p.m., but you look around Las Olas and there are people out at 1 a.m. here. And I’m like, ‘What are we supposed to do? Who’s enforcing what around here?’"

Armed with fresh health data showing the virus under control, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a new executive order on Friday, clearing the way for all businesses to reopen, with a few exceptions, under full capacity. But a Broward County order, issued late Friday, appeared to contradict that state guidance, saying that bars, nightclubs, adult entertainment venues, breweries, banquet halls and any other establishment with a food or liquor license could operate at 50% capacity indoors. Palm Beach County, meanwhile, allowed bars to reopen Friday at half capacity with a mask mandate in effect.

Read more at our news partner the South Florida Sun Sentinel.